Artisan tradition and a manufacture that combines industrial, manual and technological techniques have for centuries characterized and exalted the Italian art of glassmaking, today exported throughout the world.
Synonymous with Italian style, the art of glass originated in Murano, Venice, in the VIII century. The island of Murano, which seems a small Venice, is still the core of this art and packed with Renaissance-style houses and in part defined by its dominant white lighthouse, glass production stands as the highest expression of refined objects and furnishings.
It is an expression realized over time by several dynasties of master glassmakers, passing down this art of transforming sand with air and fire, and maintaining an archive of knowledge that has been kept very secret on this little island.
The glass arts come from the ancient Egypt, whence the tradition arrived in old Rome for the purpose of adorning noble residences. It will take many centuries before it develops an art itself. This happens in Venice because it is the arrival point of all the maritime trade with the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Of all the goods arrived from the East, a key role is played by the glass coming from the Egyptian civilization, Phoenician, Syrian, Byzantine and Islamic. It was with Eastern and Arab influences that glass design and manufacture were further refined through the centuries. In fact, Byzantine craftsmen have played a key role in the development of Venetian glass: when they arrive in Venice from Constantinople, the locals take their inspiration from their glass works, studying the transparency and decorations.
The celebrity of Murano as a center for glassmaking was born in 1291 when the Venetian Republic, to prevent the burning of buildings in the city (then largely were built of wood ), ordered glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano. The creation of objects in glass is rather complex, both materially and economically, which is why early on glassmakers enjoyed certain immunities and were allowed to possess swords for self-defense; the compromise is they could never be permitted to leave the Republic, in the regrettable case that the secrets of the glass arts might be given up by any mode or means. For this, Murano’s glassmakers held a tight monopoly on both quality and manufacturing techniques, including Millefiori, crystal or lead glass, glazed and milk glass, up until the re-discovery of ancient Roman glass, today’s murrine.
Murano is still today the main hub of artisan labs for both artistic and mass commercial production. One of the standouts among the most unique, original creations are glass objects imitating precious stones.
Murano is still home to workshops where artists work glass employing the age-old techniques that has long gone into their chandeliers and murrines, making them invaluable symbols of Made in Italy, and thus guaranteeing quality and origin.
Watch the video of a Glass factory in Murano