c. 1745- 1765
Gilt bronze mounts
Overall: 28.6 x 15.4 x 11.5 cm (11 1/4 x 6 1/16 x 4 1/2 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1974.15
Microscopes, especially ones as elaborate as this example, were luxurious symbols of enlightened aristocratic sophistication in the 1700s.
Composed of elaborate gold-plated parts, this microscope is not just a decorative work of art; it is also a functional tool for scientific inquiry. Its ornamentation reflects the intermingling of art and science during the European Enlightenment, an era when scholars emphasized the study of science and reason as a means of social and intellectual progress. The two lenses of a compound microscope allow for better focus and magnification, making it easier for scientists—amateur and professional alike—to look closer at a specimen to see more than can be seen by the naked eye. This microscope’s ornate decoration suggests it was probably owned by a wealthy person, possibly an amateur scientist.
A version of an 18th-century English poem playfully describes what can be newly seen with a microscope:
Great fleas have little fleas
Upon their backs to bite ’em
The little fleas have lesser fleas
And so ad infinitum.
The information about this object, including provenance information, is based on historic information and may not be currently accurate or complete. Research on objects is an ongoing process, but the information about this object may not reflect the most current information available to CMA. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.
Is something not working on this page? Please email email@example.com.
Request a digital file from Image Services that is not available through CC0, a detail image, or any image with a color bar. If you have questions about requesting an image, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.