Famous Glass Art: Murano

The City of Waterways

Gondolas bring to mind the Venetian times of the Holy Roman Empire. Molded glass works were inspirational to adorn many structures to remind the masses of their duty to God. Even the bathhouses had molded glassworks to give the clients light by which to bathe. Glassmakers thrived in the cities of Byzantium and other Roman metropolises. These works were found as far back as the 8th Century as documented by a successful archeological study in 1960 where in discovery the glass kilns had been unearthed.

Restrictive Glassmaker Regulations

The masons of glass or the Glassmakers Guild was a major industrial class with standards for the craftsmen to follow. This was a part of the economic strata of the 1200s when very refined objects of glass art were made. There was a reason for the existence of the Guild and it was rather secretive for the sake they said of keeping their precious formulas under wraps. This was for preservation of the trade. No employment of foreign workers was allowed and no importation of foreign glass was allowed either.

Wealthy Glassmakers

The practice of glass production isolationism grew even more restrictive in 1291 when all glass making was ordered to be moved to Murano from Venice. The excuse was to mitigate the risk of setting fire to the mainly wooden architecture in Venice. The truth was that the Guild meant to prohibit and hinder any glass trade secrets from leaking out to anyone or anywhere.

Things got even worse for glassmakers as they were soon to be confined to living in Murano and not leaving the city limits in 1295. The tradesmen were not to suffer completely as they were highly respected as some of the highest paid tradesmen of the day. The Murano glass workers lived privileged lives and moved upward into wealthy families by marriage.

Decline and Rebirth of Murano

Murano glass making was centered on the island of Murano. It has a crystalline enameled surface with threads of gold inlaid within. This effect is to give a sense of mounted gemstones with the alternation of gold threads and colored glass. The legendary Murano glass works are seen in paperweights, figurines, art glass, chandeliers stemware, sculpture, and dishes.

The art of the Murano techniques is still being used today even after the peak of its popularity in the 1500s. There is a significant Middle Eastern influence in the themes of these pieces of art with Asian and Muslim patterns and themes seen throughout. Many examples of these Murano glass art pieces can be seen in Venice at the Museo Del Vetro.

Murano glass almost died completely in 1814 when the Habsburgs, in their strong preference from Bohemian glassworks, used legislation to raise the production expenses for Murano raw materials with exorbitant tariffs on the materials. This smothered the industry causing the closure of all but five furnaces in Murano that manufactured Brown Glass.

Over time Murano reemerged as the legacy it had been built on with numerous artisans that practice this technique of fine glass art up to the present day. Artist such as Archimede Seguso, Fulvio, Barbinia, and Zuccheri have followed the path to international fame and popularity.