Slide Show of The Large Portion of her Collection Discovered at the Musée National de la Renaissance, Le Chateau d'Ecouen (The Spectacles)

Madame Heymann’s early eyeglasses are also by far the greatest collection ever assembled. In one category alone she has fourteen Baleen spectacles, far more than any other collection in the world.

All of her various eyeglasses are somewhat difficult to date. But considering her collection as a whole, evaluating the many varieties, and especially giving a specific date would be a challenge for anyone due to several notable reasons:

  1. There is no book or chart to refer to.
  2. There really is and has never been a definitive authority on the subject.
  3. I am certainly not that authority although I have seen many of the early ones that exist in most collections.
  4. Dating is more easily established if one knows for certain that a pair of glasses is DEFINITELY associated with the case in which it was found. But then one must have an accurate date for the case, which itself can be a challenging task unless some numbers (the year) are carved into the wood.
  5. Even the most advanced collectors do not have many eyeglasses from the late 16th and 17th century because they are so incredibly scarce.
  6. Even fewer advanced collectors are able to accurately date the actual glass lens inside each frame. Replacement glass can be inserted to fool the unknowing eye.
  7. There really is not much difference between early 16th century glass and late 17th century optical glass. Other than that used in telescopes, glass for eyeglasses remained fairly crude as confirmed by the Rolf Willach book.
  8. The artwork that depicts eyeglasses (the frame in particular) from this time period lacks the details one would need to distinguish one frame from another. We know that everything from this time can be clumped into the category of round frame nose spectacles.

With the examples below I have done my best to provide useful information and in some instances a suggested time period. My remarks are often based on the case that the glasses are associated with. But no one can be 100% certain since switches between glasses and cases may have occurred over the years. So I cordially invite others to join in productive dialogue that would lead to greater accuracy. This website and this discovery should remain a team effort. In time I hope more is learned about all of the objects at the Chateau and in fact all of the objects discovered at all the museums featured. Further study will be most useful since each frame, each glass lens, and each case needs the close scrutiny of experienced eyes. Several of the eyeglass frames are also noted to have English and French hallmarks which need to be identified.

This webpage with its many slideshows will expand and improve over time. The results of all this will then enhance our knowledge of this most premier of all collections.

(Move your mouse over any of the pictures below to see a larger image.)


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