In the right-hand wing of what is known as the Cloister, connecting with the Gothic gallery and giving on to an inner courtyard, an exceptional collection of old glassware is on display. The collection spans the period from Antiquity to the end of the nineteenth century and is largely devoted to what was produced in the area we know as Belgium.
A number of brightly coloured bottles are examples of the first sophisticated glassware from the Mediterranean region. Here, more particularly, it is easy to appreciate the fantasy of form and use of colour in Roman glass. In the first century A.D. there was a great flourishing in the art of working glass, brought about by the invention of the blowpipe.
Numerous glassworks were set up in Europe during the Renaissance. Most in demand, because of its luxury and beauty, was Venetian glass, witness to this being the extent to which it was imitated in Northern Europe. To make a unique object of each piece of decorative glass, it was engraved extremely carefully with the likeness of a prince, exotic flowers and animals or scenes from daily life. The visitor will be enraptured by this miniature art, a form that developed during the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly in the Netherlands, Bohemia, Silesia and Germany.
With the invention of lead crystal in England, glass gained a new brilliance and perfect transparency. In the 19th century, furthermore, Belgian glassworks began producing exquisite cut glass, which became one of the treasures of the industry in the country. At the end of the gallery, opal glass (opaline) and decorative vases provide a taste of 20th-century glassware; part of the museum’s collection of this is displayed in the ‘Magasin Wolfers’.