A short history of Venetian glass

The history of glassmaking in Venice dates back to the 8th century, although there have been fluctuations in the city’s fortunes throughout the centuries.

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The 13th century

Producing fine-quality glass objects was the major industry in Venice by the later part of the 13th century, with the Glassmakers Guild established to regulate glass production and safeguard the industry. Foreign glass could not be imported, and foreign workers were banned.

In 1291, glassmaking was moved to Murano, an island in the Venetian lagoon, by law. This was ostensibly to remove the risk of fires from the glass furnaces affecting the wooden buildings of Venice; however, it is widely believed by historians that the true intention was to isolate the glassmakers so that they were unable to disclose the secrets of the trade. A law forbidding them leaving Venice was passed in 1295.

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The 15th and 16th centuries

The discovery of how to make clear glass meant Murano was exclusive in Europe for the production of mirrors. Other techniques, such as gilding and enamelling, were introduced, and other influences from the Middle East were incorporated in Venetian glassware, which became more diverse and sophisticated.

The 17th century

With the emergence of new glassmaking centres in France, England and Bohemia, Murano glass gradually began to decline; however, baroque trends spreading through Europe created new innovations and Murano glass became known for its intricacy and bright colours. New techniques, including avventurina and calcedonio, were successfully introduced.

The 18th and 19th centuries

Decline continued in Murano’s glassmaking industry and nearly half the island’s furnaces were closed by 1820. Only a few artisans continued the tradition, but in 1854 the company Fratelli Toso opened and eventually began reviving traditional techniques.

Murano glassmaking began to revive. By 1869, 3,500 people were employed in the industry and Murano again became a famous glassmaking centre.

The 20th century onwards

Murano glassmakers continued to reproduce classical styles; for example, they recreated antique crystal chandeliers, such as those available from specialists such as http://roccoborghese.com.

Since the noughties, some decline has again been seen; however, http://www.where-venice.com/events/festival-venice-glass-week-2017/, a festival was held in 2017 with the aim of promoting the industry.

Venetian glassmaking has been with us since the eighth century, with the tradition appearing set to continue throughout the 21st century and well beyond.