Venice and glass

a centennial love

Which is the connection between Venice and glass of Murano?

Venetians, people of artisans

Transparent Murano glass block

In history the Venetians are known as people of great sailors and traders, but not many know this is true for about two thirds of the life of the Serenissima republic of Venice. With the passage of time and the various generational changes, the Venetian society gradually transformed itself and in XVII century Venice became a city dedicated to crafts rather than maritime trade and established itself as an international artistic center. The Venetians artisans distinguished themselves throughout Europe in many disciplines, from carpenters, to fabric manufacturer and weavers to the glass makers. The latter played a main role in the last part of the life of Venetian Republic up to the present day when this connection of Venice and glass is still strongly alive.

The history of Venice and glass

Murano glass was initially known as Venetian glass, only in 1292 the Serenissima issued a law that obliged all glass furnaces to move to Murano island to prevent the continuous fires from destroying the city that at the time was mostly made of wood.

This was the official version handed down over the centuries, but it is assumed that the Republic of Venice opted for this drastic solution for another very specific reason: over the years the Venetian glass masters became more and more famous and their creations were coveted by many nobles in the whole Europe. The Venetians were afraid that such a fragile and fruitful market (made up of knowledge and techniques handed down over the years by the masters to new generations) would have to be protected and regulated to prevent the passage of these knowledges to artisans non-citizen of the Serenissima.

Venice glass blocks
Murrine and materials of Murano glass
hot shop glass working

The island of glass

What is better than an island to limit the contacts of the glass masters with the world and protect their secrets?

Murano, in fact, 500 years before the industrial revolution, was a center of glass production considered one of the first example in history of industrial suburbs. Initially the glass masters were almost prisoners on the island, but with the time they increased their fame worldwide and they became so important to the city that they even could marry woman part of the Venetian nobility.

Why is venetian glass so famous?

Initially mainly for the artistic expression of the Venetian artisans who start to give importance to aesthetics as well as to the functionality of the objects produced.

The first completely transparent crystal in history was invented in Murano (by a member of the Barovier family) which became of great importance for the manufacture of the first “modern” mirrors, the first truly reflective in history. Crystal glass was also used in the production of reading glasses (it seems they were invented by a Venetian).

In addition to artistic production, for a period Murano was among the first producers in Europe of purely functional and undecorated glass objects. With the passing of the years and the submission of Venice first to the French and then to the Austrians, this type of production went completely extinct. Nowadays only artistic glass is produced in Murano, enhancing the skills of the various artists of the island and their unique techniques.