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In the Blink of an Eye
From Eye Inlays to the Artificial Eye

19.04.2011 to 17.07.2011

Neues Museum
Neues Museum

The production of artificial eyes dates back to the very beginnings of the first advanced civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The eyes, fashioned from various materials and often formed with painstaking care, were designed to be inserted into the eye sockets of statues to make their appearance more real.

The fascination with the vitality that eyes impart to a face was instrumental in the development of eye inlays created purely for use in an art context and eventually led to the production of prosthetic eyes for use in humans. There is still insufficient evidence of the use of the latter in antiquity, even though experiments in this field are likely to have been carried out. The first definite evidence of prosthetic eyes known to us date from 16th-century France. As was the case with ancient statues, a range of different materials was first tried out until it became clear that glass was the ideal material for use in production. The modern practice of creating ocular prostheses was later founded in the early 19th century in the small German town of Lauscha (Thuringia). The glass-blower Ludwig Müller-Uri made improvements to the glass eyes created in Paris at the time. His sons went on to perfect the artificial eyes, making them into nothing short of masterpieces which even today meet all demands placed on them regarding material, design and medical use.

This one-room show, organized by the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection in conjunction with the glass museum in Lauscha, covers the history of artificial eyes from past civilizations up to the modern day and provides an insight, not only into their development and the production techniques involved but also their diversity and the fascination they exert to this day.