Italy, Venice and the Isle of Murano
Italian glass is often referred to as Murano or Venetian glass. Murano is a group of islands just off the coast of Venice in the Adriatic Sea where Italian glass maker’s plied their trade for hundreds of years. Venetian glass refers to a beautiful age-old style of fancy, frilly glass often including real precious metals to enhance the decor.
At the dawn of 13th century, the city of Venice was the known world’s major hub of glass creation. By the late 13th century, glass makers on the group of islands called Murano, perfected the art with brilliant methods and recipes. The secret recipes and decorative techniques of Italian glass were guarded as if they were classified material. Glass artists enjoyed high social status and accumulated great wealth, but were held captive on the Island of Murano, by the government of Venice, for fear their secrets would be shared with the rest of the world. It is widely believed the glass makers and their furnaces were isolated on the Murano islands of the Venice lagoon (Adriatic Sea) to prevent fires from spreading in the city of Venice. The fear of fire may have been a factor, but proprietary secrets were the main concern.
Although the glass maker’s captors provided them with the finer things in life, captivity itself made them yearn to leave. The glass trade monopoly began to crack by the mid-14th century as escapees from Murano plied their trade outside of the Republic of Venice. By the 1600’s, Venetian glass secrets were spread around the world.
No longer holding the monopoly of fine glass, and unhappily under the rule of Austria, the Venetians experienced a decline until the mid-19th century. The Austrian government preferred Bohemian glass and the import of raw materials to Murano was restricted and highly taxed. To its rescue came the Fratelli Toso family in 1854 and Antonia Salviati in 1859. Their companies employed the skills and inventions of Murano’s glory days, lost for over 200 years, and incorporated ancient forms and methods once practiced by the Phoenicians Romans.
Again Murano glass found itself in the welcoming arms of the world. In 1866 Venice freed itself from Austria to become part of the Kingdom of Italy. Glass producers from the region again began to flourish. The wealthy class of the U.S.A. routinely enjoyed lengthy tours of Europe and it is estimated that 80% of the Italian glass output was brought to America as souvenirs during during the first
In the 1950’s an explosion of creativity prompted yet another world-wide craving for Italian-made glass. The Toso and Salviati companies along with Vistosi, Venini , Barbini, and Seguso, among others provided the world with creative hand-made Italian glass. The glass factories of Italy produced innovative designs to appease the thoroughly modern population who proudly displayed fashionable Italian art glass in their homes. Fabulous examples of mid-century modern Italian glass can be seen in the background of many films made in the 1930’s to 1970’s. Sophia Loren, in Three Coins in a Fountain, decorated her lavish villa with mid century modern Italian glass.
Retro Art Glass offers a large selection of authentic antique, vintage and retro glassware and art glass by famous makers of the past. Visit Retro Art Glass at http://www.retroartglass.com and browse through hundreds of fascinating and available glass objects from years gone by.
Abridged Version 2.1 – Copyright 2016 – All Rights Reserved