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Pièdouche Paperweight

Robert M. Golub, MD
JAMA. 2008;300(10):1119-1120. doi:10.1001/jama.300.10.1119.
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Glass paperweights have been classified as functional art, although their function is absurdly simple—to sit on and hold down papers of interest, something that every housecat can do. Their appeal as art, however, is personal, and for me the fascination began in childhood.

Art often has a visceral attraction for children. They are drawn to the colors of crayons, the ooze of finger paint, the rhythmic hold of music. Glass is different, with unique properties. It is tactile—smooth to the fingers (or tongue) and cool. Visually, there is magic in being able to see through it. Glass can transform the appearance of the world, enlarging, shrinking, distorting. Unlike drawings or paintings, glass can be held and observed to change in three dimensions with each movement.

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Pièdouche Paperweight (view with pedestal). Clichy Glasshouse (1837-1885), Pièdouche Paperweight, circa 1845-1860, French. Glass. Diameter: 7.6 cm. Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (http://www.artic.edu/aic); bequest of Arthur Rubloff, 1988.541.326. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago.

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