Murano glass – the material is respected and even cult. What talented craftsmen did not make! Beads and beads, cups and vases, dishes and glasses, and later – mirrors and chandeliers decorated with glass garlands. All this amazed and amazes with the subtlety and virtuosity of technology, a variety of colors and techniques for decorating products..
The history of Venetian glass is not at all like a simple-minded tale of an intricate national craft. Rather, it is a drama full of passions, mixed with the martial arts of creative pride, with the stubborn aspiration of the Venetians at all costs to achieve a monopoly in European glassmaking. Venetian glassmakers showed their first creations to the world almost a thousand years ago. Over the long ten centuries of its existence, the glassmaking of Venice has experienced a rapid evolution, loud glory, dark oblivion and a new bright flourishing…
And it all began behind the blank walls of the monastery, where Benedictine monks a thousand years ago decided to make glass flasks for their famous liquor. Their experiments in smelting glass, enriched with the secrets of fugitive Byzantine glassmakers, led to an unprecedented flowering of the craft. Having sheltered glassmakers, Venice did not go wrong. Products of Venetian masters were worth their weight in gold and brought considerable income to the treasury.
At first, the workshops were located in Venice itself, but since there were many wooden buildings in the city, any production associated with fire constantly threatened it with fire. Therefore, in the 13th century, the government decided to move the glass workshops to a separate island – Murano. Since then, Venetian glassmaking is inextricably linked with this islet, and glass is called Murano.
The history of wonderful glass is full of drama. The Venetian rulers did not want to share income with anyone and imposed a monopoly on its production. There are many hunters for secrets in Europe. Craftsmen from Murano were lured to other countries, promising high wages. In Venice, the death penalty was imposed for disclosing the secret of its production, many craftsmen who managed to leave the island for other countries mysteriously died on the road, taking the secrets of the craft with them to the grave..
This “deadly” competition was ended by the publication of the book The Art of Glass, which fully described the technology of its production. Now it is possible to produce products in the “Venetian style” throughout Europe. Further history has shown that knowledge alone is not enough for the production of uniquely beautiful products. Many people know the sheet music, but only a select few compose music. In sculptures, vessels and dishes, vases and cups, lamps and tableware, in elegant samples of small plastic – beads and pins, so beloved by tourists all over the world, century-old artistic traditions, skill honed by many generations, individual author’s handwriting are clearly visible.
Why was Murano glass so prized in antiquity and appreciated today? The uniqueness of the products lies in their unusual production method. The modern technology of making glass in a simplified form is as follows: molten quartz sand is poured onto a layer of mirror-smooth tin. The entire process from start to finish is automated and takes place under specially created conditions. The end result is perfectly smooth glass familiar to our eyes..
Murano glass, despite the development of technology, is made exclusively by hand. Breathing is the component that revives it, gives a feeling of airiness and lightness. The master is armed with an iron pipe, one third covered with wood (so as not to burn his hands) and equipped at one end with a mouthpiece, and at the other with a pear-shaped bulge for picking up glass. The end of the blow tube, heated by fire, is dipped into a molten glass mass, which easily adheres to the tube, forming a hot ball. Quickly removing the pipe from the oven, the master instantly begins to blow into it from the opposite end. In a glass coma, a hollow space is formed, which increases as air is blown into it … Any things are made in this way: both small glassware and large mirror glasses. For two thousand years, the glassmaker’s iron pipe has not undergone any changes and has not undergone any improvements. Perhaps that is why the works of Murano artists are so attractive, so emotional, that in every object there is a trace of living human breath. Hence the uniqueness and originality of the surface and shape of each product, and, in addition, a huge variety of shades and glass decoration techniques..
The fame of the Muranians was brought, first of all, by the glass thread (filigree). When finishing with glass thread, thin white opal glass threads are wound on the product. Spirally twisted threads make up an infinite variety of weaves. It was distinguished by Murano products and the millefiori technique (thousands of flowers), when small plates depicting a variegated flower were melted into the outer surface of the glass. The production of this extraordinarily beautiful glass was surrounded by mystery.
Non-ferrous metal oxides are used for the manufacture of colored glass. Green color gives iron oxide, green or red color – copper oxide. The blue color is obtained with the help of cobalt, the ruby hue gives an admixture of gold. Transparent Venetian glass, the famous cristallo, amazes with its crystal rainbow play of light and special lightness. With the help of tin oxide, an opaque white glass of a milky hue is obtained. A wide variety of colors and patterns is characteristic of agate glass, consisting of differently located and differently colored layers.
At the beginning of the 17th century, craftsmen from the Miotti family invented glass, on the polished surface of which countless shiny dots flickered, producing an incomparable light effect. This glass came to be called aventurine. It is obtained by adding copper to the glass mass, which crystallizes when the glass cools. Attention is drawn to the items decorated with a pattern called “crakelage”. And they make it like this: a blown object, inside which a high temperature is maintained, is immersed in cold water, from which the outer layer of glass becomes covered with small cracks. Cracks remain on the surface, decorating the products with a peculiar pattern.
Vases made using the “pulegozo” technique make a huge impression. If you immerse a red-hot glass in water and then immediately return it to the oven, air bubbles form inside. It seems that the frozen glass miraculously “boiled”.
The earliest extant items date back to the middle of the 15th century. At this time, stable artistic forms of glass vessels took shape, which became the standard for many generations of Murano masters: large capacious bowls and dishes standing on strong legs; short-necked egg-shaped jugs with a tall, elegantly curved handle; vessels for drinks reminiscent of late Gothic cups; glasses that look like a funnel on a low conical leg. All this was made in Murano in huge quantities. Items made of transparent colorless glass, like colored glass items, were usually decorated with welded-on colorless or painted details: rosettes, masks, bulges in the form of drops and bubbles; the edges of the vessels were made wavy and curved. Often, the role of fancy and at the same time functional decorations was performed by bird and animal tails, paws, wings and scallops….
In the 16th century, the glory of Murano glass became truly world-famous. Products of medieval craftsmen reached incredible subtlety, sometimes embarrassing with their weightlessness, and the glass mass impressed with its purity and transparency. In Russia, Murano glass products appeared in pre-Petrine times. Glass vessels and mirrors were in great honor in Russia.
Today, like many years ago, new factories and workshops are opening on the island of Murano. There are many factories that produce inexpensive souvenir items that are often brought to us under the guise of exclusive Murano glass and sold at crazy prices. In order not to become a victim of fraud, you need to know that only a few factories of the island produce exclusive glass (FORMIA, SEGUSO VIRO, others). All works by Murano masters are signed, numbered and provided with a certificate. The prices for such items have no limit.
The sun and the sea brought their brightness, brilliance, changeable and unique shades as a gift to Venetian glass. It conceals the atmosphere of an eternal holiday and always remains a desirable acquisition for connoisseurs and collectors. In a modern interior, objects made by wizards from Murano look like messengers from distant times, bringing to us the secrets and charm of the past.