Venetian glass - Tradition of Excellence
- By: Kevin Grinberg
Venetian glass has been admired for its beauty and superb craftsmanship for more than thousand years. Located on a small island near Venice, in Italy, Murano glass factories produced exquisite glass objects of art, chandeliers and jewelry through centuries of changes. Venetian glass artisans survived many wars, changes of dynasties and rulers, economic upheavals, and competition from other glass making traditions.
It is difficult to define the reason for the popularity of Murano glass. It is probably the combination of innovative techniques, centuries of tradition and superb craftsmanship that is so unique Murano.
Although there are many glass artists in Murano producing beautiful venetian glass objects, there is a common thread that makes Murano glass easily recognizable, even today, when Murano glass makers are adapting to the modern styles and market demands.
The tradition of producing magnificent glass objects was cultivated and protected by Venetian glass making families through centuries and for a long time, new techniques and the ways to produce different kinds of glass were kept as family secrets. In time, techniques, together with Murano glass artists, left the island and slowly conquered the world.
Today, there are glass artists all over the world who produce unique glass art following the Venetian glass tradition. Technology made it possible for glass artists to copy many of the Murano glass making techniques. Artists are using new technologies to make new types of glass, using their own unique artistic sensibilities, but are still proud to call themselves Murano glass artists. Many glass artists from different countries still consider the time spent in Murano, learning the ancient techniques, as the privilege and high learning.
It is not only the ancient techniques that the modern artists are bringing from Murano to the world. It is also a way of working in a team, using old tools, still unsurpassed by modern technology, to create the magic and transform simple sand into exquisite art objects. Modern glass artists consider time spent in Murano to learn the traditional glass making techniques as part of their advanced studies.
One of the secrets of success of Venetian glass making art is in its adaptability. The artists were constantly looking for more interesting ways of forming glass and the new ways to express their talents. In the 15th century, Murano glass artist Angelo Barovier invented 'cristallo', totally transparent glass never seen before.
The same century produced ghiaccio (ice glass) with crackled surface, and incalmo, two different colors of glass fused together. In the 17th century Murano glass artists came up with aventurine – clear glass imbedded with gold, shimmering particles. It was the same century that produced now famous millefiori (thousand flowers), a technique that most people today identify with Venetian glass.
The competition with Bohemian glass artists in the 18th century inspired Murano glass makers to come up with techniques like enamel-painted glass and milk glass. They also started working with crystal glass and gilded mirrors.
Murano still has thriving glass making industry and Venetian glass artists are proud to follow the ancient tradition. Some of them are following their own artistic path, others are answering the demands of the market for cheaper, smaller glass objects affordable to the majority of people. Whether you have a museum-quality piece of old Murano glass or a necklace bought online, the Murano tradition and artistic integrity will always be the recognizable part of it.
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