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Opera glasses - opera glasses

opera glasses

  • Object:

    Opera glasses

  • Place of origin:

    Europe (made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Credit Line:

    Richard Vincent Hughes Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

During the 18th century prosperous theatregoers could buy a long, collapsible type of telescope known as an Opera Glass to help them see performances on stage. The earliest type of binocular opera glasses began to appear in the early 19th century, and the optician Johann Friedrich Voigtlander produced a type in Vienna that was essentially two telescopes bridged together, focused independently by individual draw tubes.

Opera glasses were improved in Paris in 1825 with Pierre Lemière's invention of a central focus wheel with two eye tubes that could be adjusted simultaneously. By the mid 19th century opera glasses were an essential accessory for the fashionable theatregoer, and to satisfy the demand manufacturers produced a range of beautifully made and exquisitely decorated models. The type with long handles favoured in France and Austria were known as lorgnettes, and early 19th century satires featured the use of opera glasses to glimpse details of ladies' dress on stage that would not otherwise have been so evident.

Place of Origin

Europe (made)


19th century (made)

Descriptive line

Opera glasses with tooled decoration incised on the gilt retractable casing, steel and brass focus knob, triple steel bridge and steel tubes. Richard Vincent Hughes Bequest.


Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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