Optical Treasures: Missing-Stolen

The teamwork involved in the development of this website has uncovered significant information related to a wide variety of optical objects. It is apparent that a sizable group of important items are (A) MISSING because (1) they were stolen or, more commonly, (2) they have disappeared over the years and have not yet been located. These two groups will now be reported.

It is a shame that certain treasures cannot be held again, evaluated, and better appreciated (in person) by individuals from around the world who have great interest in antique vision aids. By listing them here, and in many instances presenting their appearance, one or more of these special items may resurface once again. It would be thrilling if even one of the vision aids mentioned below is recovered. That would certainly be wonderful and would make the effort of constructing this first page worth the effort. So if anyone knows anything regarding the whereabouts of any of these objects please notify drdavid@antiquespectacles.com.

Title Description Photo Comments
President George Washington spectacles (two pair which are reputed to possibly have been his) Review of a letter dated April 4, 1918 written by Harrison Dodge, Superintendent of Mount Vernon, reveals that they initially had two pair of Washington spectacles (see photo). Another letter dated March 29, 1952 had been written to the Historian of Independence National Historical Park. It stated the “Mount Vernon has lost the only pair it had that had any claim to possible authenticity”. In the files of the Independence National Historical Park, there is a listing which shows:
SN 45.001 Said to have belonged to George Washington. STOLEN.
Andrew Billing (1743-1808) silversmith is said to have made this pair of spectacles which are said to have been worn by Washington. From a letter dated August 21, 1967, Acting Chief of Visitors Services reported that a pair of antique spectacles was discovered missing from the Assembly Room at 9:35 a.m. Saturday August 19, 1967. The spectacles had been displayed on the “New York” table, nearest the bar on the north side of the room. They were part of the Independence Hall Collection, on permanent loan from the city of Philadelphia. They were silver and were bearing the mark “A. Billing”.
SN 45.025 Silver rimmed, stolen 8/23/69, with case – not stolen (listed City Collection -no photo)
Possible George Washington’s eyeglasses, 1920’s photo, Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, PA (Stolen in 1967. Please note that “research did not support the use or ownership by Washington”)
George Washington’s eyeglasses, from the L.D. Bronson book Xerox from 1928 showing two pair
SN  45.0001
SN. 45.0001  Detail of typewritten card
One was taken from Mt. Vernon before 1952 while the other was taken from the Assembly room of Independence Hall in 1967.

There is really no 100% proof that any of these belonged to Washington and some of the curators along the way simply have not believed any of the claims.

President Andrew Jackson spectacles This pair has silver rims with adjustable earpieces. Inside one temple is engraved "Gen. A. Jackson"; on the other is "McAllister, Philad" and the number 16. The Inscription “Gen. A. Jackson” is visible in the photograph. They were stolen in 1978 while on exhibit in the Hermitage mansion. These eyeglasses were originally acquired from Andrew Jackson’s great grandsons in 1921. Andrew Jackson spectacles, stolen from the Hermitage In 1993 an anonymous phone call was received from someone claiming to have these eyeglasses, but nothing ever came of it.
Spectacles with Scarlett Temples Owned by the late OAICC member Robert von Sandor of Sweden, this pair had been loaned out for an exhibition in a museum in 1988 or 1989. The glass showcase in which they were displayed was smashed by a thief who grabbed them and ran. Belonged to Robert Sandor, OAICC member, now deceased, stolen from an exhibit in 1988-89, (note the Scarlett spiral finials) The frame was slightly more decorative and possibly a little younger than the one discovered at the BOA Museum by Hugh Orr. Described in the April 1989 OAICC Newsletter. The major feature here is the unusual SCARLETT finials. These spectacles were never recovered
Two wonderful decorated spyglasses These had been part of the Sandoz Collection and have been unseen for just over 50 years. That famous Collection had been exhibited in NYC in 1950. From the exhibition catalog: Spyglass with music, watch, and automation showing an animated seascape. Gold and enamel with pearl borders. Signed Puy Roche. A 220-221 Fig. 35 in the catalogue
Spyglass with watch, music playing hunting song, and automation showing an animated hunting scene. Gold and enamel with pearl borders. Ex- coll. Bernard-Franck M. 318.
Lent by Dr. Maurice Y. Sandoz
Taken out of the collection of Sandoz Burier AB These two spyglasses from the Sandoz Collection were seen until 1954. Then after Dr. Maurice Sandoz died, the collection was apparently divided into three parts. One part went to the Musée d'Horlogerie du Locle - Château des Monts outside Geneva, Switzerland. Another part was kept by the family (including Faberge eggs). The third part is what has not been seen since his death, and this included the two wonderful spyglasses.
Eighty valuable pieces belonging to Dr. Richard Greeff, Director of the eye clinic in the Berlin Charite The collection passed to the Staatliche Optikerschule in Jena. Then in 1921, while Greeff was out of the country, the best, mostly made of gold, examples were stolen. (No Photo) The theft was never solved and these were thought to have been melted down.. In September 1923 the Greeff Collection was willed to the Carl Zeiss firm in Jena.
Statue and ivory monkeys The statue and the monkeys were stolen in the 1960s from the BOA Museum Group symbolizing SEEING, Frankenthal, late 18th century, taken from the BOA Collection
Oriental Ivory Carvings Depicting Spectacles, taken from the BOA Museum Collection
Never recovered
Christuskind mit Brille in der Hand, Italian (Milan) school, 16th century oil painting

Recovered

This was a painting of the child Jesus with eyeglasses in his hand. Ophthalmologist Dr. Bourgeous of Reims, France had been a presenter at the 1909 International Congress of Ophthalmology. In his collection he had no fewer than 40 examples of the anachronistic representation of eyeglasses. He showed a copy of this one and it was also mentioned in the Madame Heymannn book of 1911. Dr. Greeff of Berlin wrote a paper about this painting in the 1913-14 Zeitschrifrt fur Ophthalmologische Optik. Glasses were placed in the painting like a toy for the child to play with. They were typical bow spectacles and belonged to his father Joseph who stands behind and to the left of the child Christ. It looks almost as though this is a single lens.

16th century painting of Jesus with spectacles, missing, possibly stolen during WW 2

Recovered

Leading up to World War I this painting apparently disappeared and it has never been seen since. The painting was in the collection of Dr. Goldzieher, Greeff’s colleague and a Budapest Jewish ophthalmologist. This was a loss of monumental proportion because it was unique of all the anachronisms known from the 15th – 17th centuries.
 

Spectacles from the Dr. Edward Bull Collection A group of spectacles disappeared from the Dr. Edward Bull Collection in the late 70’s – early 1980’s. The list totaled fifty-five items valued at $11,000. Most of them had the notation “L1090” written on the sidearm. (No Photo) It was believed that an individual who collected spectacles at that time, authored books about them, and also appraised them was the apparent culprit. A legal case ensued and there was an out of court settlement. However these objects unfortunately were never recovered.
Polyhedral glasses from the late 16th century On the night of December 4, 1949, a robbery occurred at Castle Ambras in Vienna, Austria. 118 pieces were stolen from a cabinet and this apparently included the polyhedral glasses from The Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. These were possibly used by Archduke Ferdinand of Tyroll and had been photographed in 1921. Multiplying spectacles, stolen from Castle Ambras 16th century examples are extremely rare. About a dozen late 17th century examples have been seen.

 

Solid gold facetted spectacles Solid gold facetted spectacles the sides engraved “Thos Smirk” and “60 years” in solid silver. They apparently had been in the Hugh Orr Collection. stolen from the Hugh Orr Collection Described in the July 1998 OAICC Newsletter.
 
A collection of ophthalmic antiques in Australia In Sydney, Australia, a collection of ophthalmic antiques was stolen from the home of a collector while he was abroad in the month of June 1999. The pieces were up to 200 years old and included lorgnettes, lorgnons and gold spectacles from the 19th century and up to 1970 in the 20th century. The lorgnettes included examples with real tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl handles. (No Photo) Described in the January 2000 OAICC Newsletter. A reward has been offered for information leading to the recovery of this collection. Telephone the New South Wales Police with any information 061-02-9414-8499.
Spectacles of John Lennon The Glasgow Herald of 12/28/2000 reported that the life-sized bronze statue of John Lennon was vandalized when a thief stole its spectacles. The statue had been unveiled in Havana Cuba on 12/8/2000 by Fidel Castro. (No Photo) Described in the April 2001 OAICC Newsletter.
 
Silver spectacle cases from the BOA Museum collection Two silver spectacle cases from the BOA Museum collection were snatched while on display at Optrafair 2001. These were part of the College of Optometrists stand. Right: silver case, flip-top, hallmarked NM (Nathan Mills), elaborate decoration depicting a castle. English (Birmingham) 1850, 120x51x16mm. Left: Silver folder case, oval-shaped, hallmarked, open end, decorated with scroll pattern, blue lining, attached to a chatelaine chain, English (Birmingham), 1901, 65x42x13 mm. Silver cases, stolen from the BOA Museum's display at Optrafair 2001 Described in the July 2001 OAICC Newsletter.
Scissors-glasses, gilded, circa 1820 These were stolen from the office of Dr. Alan York, Easthampton, NY in the late 1980's Scissors-glasses stolen from the office of Dr. Alan York Shown in Encyclopedia of Collectibles, Eyeglasses, Time-Life Books, page 84
Ghandi's glasses, early 20th century A pair of round-framed spectacles belonging to India’s independence icon Mahatma Gandhi went missing from a museum in western India. Staff at the Sevagram Ashram, a religious retreat some 47 miles from the city of Nagpur, noticed that the glasses had disappeared as they made preparations to mark the anniversary of its founding. Gandhi first arrived at the Ashram near the town of Wardha, in northeast Maharashtra state, in the mid-1930s. The spectacles were among a number of personal items, including a pen stand and a bathroom brush, on display in a locked show cabinet. Ghandi's glasses, early 20th century Described in June 15, 2011 "The Nation" newspaper of Pakistan.

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