At the heart of Luxottica is a curiosity that has evolved into a passion. Uncovering the history of glasses, how they were made and worn over centuries, not only satisfies our curiosity, but it allows us to share the art and history and skill of what we do every day.
So in 1980 we started to look amongst objects in small markets and in the corners of antique shops. It was with great joy that we came across rare traces of our predecessors, and set them out little by little one against the other, putting together a sort of itinerary of the past.
In 1988, we became aware of the fact that a French optician had put up for sale his collection of glasses, around 150 pieces. We bought it, and from that moment, our curiosity effectively started to turn into a passion.
Some years later, following the purchase of another small private collection, the collection reached around 300 pieces. It was like finding one piece at a time, the pieces of a huge mosaic and seeing it being reborn before our very eyes. Gathering together these pieces of history gave us a new emotion every time.
In fact, an artisan object preserves in itself the toil and the ingeniousness of its creator and maybe also a little of his soul. For this reason, while it is easy to get rid of a modern object, produced in series, it is difficult to eliminate a product made by hand. And, even when confronted with very sophisticated technology of the modern world, we feel great emotion, for this reason we can only look at these objects and instruments with great respect which still leave man as the protagonist.
A great opportunity presented itself at the end of the eighties, when we offered to but the great collection of Fritz Rathschuler, an optician from Genoa of Austrian origin. After some months, we reached an agreement and with the arrival of 1200 new pieces, the need arose to catalogue the objects and manage the entire collection.
It was then that the company made the decision to make available to the general public what had become in the meantime scientific and historical patrimony, and therefore to share it with the people involved. The wish was to exhibit everything in Agordo, near the main head office of the company, in the seventeenth century Crotta-De Manzoni building, in the past used as an armoury and purchased and restored by us some years earlier.
For Luxottica, a “new” company, these objects have a meaning which goes beyond the simple antique or collection piece
In September 1991, Luxottica celebrated their thirtieth year of business and chose this occasion to open the museum, named “Optics and Glasses”. For Luxottica, a “new” company, these objects have a meaning which goes beyond the simple antique or collection piece; in fact, they give the sense of history, they stimulate us in the continuous recovery of not only the past, but the present, including that of our company.
A visit to the museum emphasizes how nowadays glasses have lost their feature of aid (prosthesis) and support for lenses, becoming a fashion accessory, maybe more important. In spite of this ideological change in the last century, we must not forget how much these objects have contributed to people’s evolution and well-being.
What an amazing discovery! We can certainly state that the arrival of glasses gave rise to acceleration in progress, giving possibility to scientists, artists, artisans and in general everyone who needs them for their business, to be able to carry out their work even if affected with visual defects which, if not corrected, would have limited their abilities.
This is why we are proud to contribute to the protection and preservation of this patrimony which will help also our future generations to remember how the invention of glasses played a part in our history; as well as safeguarding this cultural treasure, it is a dutiful tribute to the commitment of those that came before us and worked and continue to work in order to contribute to technological and scientific development, and high specialisation which we enjoy today.
Visiting the museum
The museum houses a collection of original articles that illustrate the history of optics and eyeglasses from their origin to the present day. The exhibition includes two thousand of items, divided into the following sections: lenses, eyeglasses, monocles, telescopes, microscopes, optical instruments, spectacle cases, prints and books.
The eyeglasses section includes the oldest in the collection: frames without temples called arc glasses in whalebone from the 1600s; another unique example is an XVIII century traveling box complete with six pairs of arc glasses with the name and address of the manufacturer in Nuremburg.
On display are wig glasses, the first frames with temples, monocles, theater glasses, nose spectacles and pince-nez. The collection also showcases some of the first sunglasses, including the type known as “Goldoni” which was made in Venice in the 1700s, and numerous spectacles from the Far East with the characteristic perforated bridge with ideograms. There are also numerous and varied examples of unusual frames of the Fifties, modern handmade frames that were worn by the models at the shows given by the most famous fashion houses.
Also part of the collection are vintage spectacle cases in various materials, many of which still contain the original eyeglasses.
Displayed in the section devoted to telescopes are valuable examples such as the 8-meter-long octagonal telescope of 1682 signed by Giuseppe Campani. The astronomer Gian Domenico Cassini served under Louis XIV of France and used these telescopes to determine the rotation periods of Jupiter and Mars.
Also on display is a rare book of astronomical observations by Francesco Fontana. It has 14 engraved images of lunar eclipses with the hour and sometimes the day of observation.
The microscopes in the collection fully illustrate the technical development of this instrument during the XVIII century: from the simple microscope called the “flea-glass”, to very unusual portable microscopes used by explorers in the early 1700s, to valuable compound microscopes made in Nuremburg and London. A very large collection of rare historical iconographic printed materials and a library of books about optics, the oldest of which is dated 1583, are also part of the museum.