Known for its secretive techniques, unique shapes, and distinctive colors, Murano glasswork, or Venetian glass has a history featuring barbarians, the downfall of the Roman Empire, and escape. For centuries, Murano Islanders have monopolized this form of art and it’ll stay that way.
This form of artmaking has inspired many young artists today but there was a time when Murano glass lost its charm. Nonetheless, it was revived thanks to American artists and their interest in it.
The intricate patterns, complex techniques, and precious metal-infused glasswork are demanding and labor-intensive. Here’s the history of Venetian glass and why it is highly sought-after.
Murano Island – A Gem
The Island of Murano is a peaceful and vibrant lagoon in Venice. A serene corner where art meets cultural heritage. Murano Island is a famous region steeped in the ancient history of glassmaking, tradition, and unique techniques attributable to the Byzantine, Roman, and Egyptian eras.
This glass island embraced the glass furnaces back in 1291 upon the orders to move glass factories from Venice. Today there are over 100 glass furnaces and factories on Murano Island. These are family-owned by old families who have been perfecting and imparting their craft generation after generation.
The Origin Story of Glassmaking
The history of Murano or Venetian glassmaking began when Venice was part of the Roman Empire. Romans molded glass as a source of light for their bathhouses and even homes. Putting the skills they learned during Byzantine Empire into practice, they blended their craftsmanship to create Venetian glass.
Venice quickly became a glassmaking center in the 8th century. Archeologists discovered the earliest glass furnace on Venetian Island in 1860. By 1200, Venetian Island became a major city for glass objects and manufacturing. The Glassmakers Guild was established to safeguard the secret of the technique and trade and make sure glassmakers earned maximum profitability. In that vein, the guild also prohibited foreign glass import as well as employment of foreigners for glasswork.
1291 Radical Law
By the late 1200s, another radical law titled Murano Island was the center for all premium glassmaking objects. The law required glass furnaces to shift to Murano from Venice to prevent the risk of fire and other fatalities.
However, many historians believe this law was passed to isolate the unique glass craftsmanship. So that glass masters couldn't disclose the secret. In 1295, another law confirmed these speculations in that glass masters were forbidden from leaving Murano Island.
Status and Privilege
The families owning and running their furnaces in Murano earned a name in Venice. They had a privileged status and earned rewards for their hard work. Their daughters could marry the noblest and wealthiest families in Venice.
This reflects the importance of Venetian glasswork at that time. This clever approach further encouraged glass masters to impart their technique to the next generation by fueling the trade and maintaining the secrecy of their glassmaking technique.
The convenient location of Venice between West and East, further helped Venice monopolize its power in glassmaking and selling premier quality Murano glass across Europe for centuries.
The Downfall of An Era
The 15th and 16th centuries marked a full blossom of Murano glassmaking. Venice became the only center for glass production in Europe. However, this didn’t last long which is evident from the 17the century decline of Venetian glass.
The gradual decline in the 17th century started when Venice lost its power grip and its role as a major trade center started to diminish. The new centers emerged in France, Bohemia, and England as these regions made breakthrough innovations in glassmaking techniques.
The Rise of an Empire
However, Murano glass was quickly revived in 1854 when Toso Brothers used forgotten techniques of the past. Antonio Salviati returned to Venice five years later to open a factory for traditional Murano glass production.
The window of opportunity was knocking and he took it on him to produce and restore old Venetian art and mosaics. He hired glass masters from Murano to rediscover old techniques of creating traditional Venetian glass products.
Venice’s authorities signed a contract with him seeing the opportunity and so resurged an ancient form of art that was on the brink of extinction. The glory of the past accompanied by modern techniques made Venetian glassmaking famous all over again.
The 1864 exhibition furthered the cause of reviving Murano glass by reigniting competition among glass masters. Similarly, other international shows such as the 1867 Universal Exposition in Paris also paved the way for Murano’s glass revival.
Venetian Glass Today!
In the 20th century, Murano craftsmen continued to reproduce ancient and classical styles of glassmaking. Presently, American artists and international designers have rediscovered this hand-blown work of art.
It has become an inspiration and muse for international artists and designers who have just found out about the innate beauty of Venetian glassmaking. These designers now work closely with various furnaces and glass masters to add a touch of modernity to ancient art.
However, the craftsmen still use traditional techniques. It’s a well-kept secret but also ready to embrace contemporary art. There’s nothing like the intricate and exquisite Murano glass objects.
Buy Murano Glass Online at MuranoNet
Although the history of Murano or Venetian glass is difficult to contain, you can bring home this piece of history. All you need to do is check out MuranoNet’s online store. Operating since 1997 and working closely with glass masters and furnaces in Venice, MuranoNet has earned the name of Murano specialist.
The store sells every time of Murano glass artifacts from large glass vases to decorative hanging lights for home, you can find everything. Buy Murano glass sculptures for sale for your entryway, surprise your partner with a big brown necklace or maybe get some ideas for corporate executive Christmas gifts.
Browse their various collections and order today to earn free shipping on orders above 30€. The store also has an ongoing sale on its Murano glass lighting, wedding gifts, and much more. You’ll also get a certificate of guarantee as proof of authenticity. Contact their team for more information.