Murano art glass is renowned for its unique manufacturing techniques. These techniques were once the monopoly of the traditional artisans of Murano Island. Murano is a group of islands in the Adriatic Sea, north of Venice.
The Murano Island has gone through quite a number of dramatic phases throughout its history. The once quite unassuming group of islands, which used to be a fishing harbor and trade center, suddenly transformed into a busy and affluent place by the coming of the glass making guild onto the island in 1291.
The art glass making started in Venice by the 10th century. By the 13th century it grew into an industry, which used high temperature kilns for the glass making. The traditional houses in Venice, which were made of wood, stood in danger of fire outbreaks any time and in 1291 the senate of Venice sent all the glass workers to the island of Murano through a decree.
The glass makers were given great freedom and high status. At first they manufactured mainly glass beads and mirrors. Later Murano Island was famous for chandeliers. The Murano glass chandeliers were prized all over the world for their brilliance and expert workmanship.
Then the freedom of the island encouraged diverse experiments in the glass making techniques. A variety of unique glass making techniques was evolved. The crystalline glass made by these craftsmen shone with great clarity and luster. The Aventurine glass which contained gold thread was invented on the island of Murano. The "smalto" is enameled glass and "millefiori" is the multicolored glass. Another variety of this art glass is "lattimo" or milk glass. Murano artists even made imitation gem stones out of glass.
However, the Murano glass industry suffered a temporary setback in the latter half of 18th century. Beginning of the 19th century found the closure of many glass factories. But by the end of the 19th century a few business men like Antonio Salviati abd Fratelli Toso strived to revive Murano glass industry. Salviati’s exhibition of Murano glass at a global exhibition in London breathed a new life into the Murano glass industry.
The first Biennale of Venice in 1895 exhibited a lot of top-quality artistic ideas, which challenged the Murano artists. The artists, who had worked so far within the framework of their age-old tradition, were forced to think about alternative techniques and designs. So they decided to improve the craft by exchanging technical knowhow with each other and evolving innovative design ideas. They got guidance about the latest trends in design from the new glassworks owners like Giacomo Cappellin and Paolo Venini. With this dawned the new and revitalized era of Murano glass and once again established the global superiority of Murano glass.
Now Murano glass articles are highly valued items all over the world. They are used as gift items par excellence. Even if vintage Murano glass items are the collector’s favorite, one cannot but be impressed by the latest trends in Murano glass designs. The ornaments made of sparkling beads and stones are great greatly proffered by the elite class all over the world. They are remarkable pieces of art which have millenniums of cultural background behind them.
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by Marina Chernyak