Precious objects that made history
The prehistoric man surely knew the glass as a natural product such as: the solidified lava and the obsidian which could be found in abundance in the Mediterranean basin. It is supposed that the first form of glass came into life in Mesopotamia towards the third millennium b.C.. The objects produced in this period are small such as: ceramics, cups and small bottles.
Proofs from archaeological finds prove that, in Egypt, in the second millennium b.C., a type of sophisticated and elegant production began and it spread to Mycenae. Towards the 1200 b.C., the glass production in Murano experienced a period of decline lasted up to the ninth century b.C. when, in Syria and in the area of the Phoenicians, an increase began. The discovery of some ornamental objects showed that various productions continued through the centuries until the great revival which took place around the IV° century. b.C..
After the fall of the Persian empire in the ‘330 b.C., the glass production continues in the Syro-Palestinian coast and especially in Alexandria that soon becomes one of the most important manufacturing centres of the Hellenistic period. At the end of the Hellenistic period around the third century, new stylistic trends were developed that led to the creation of pottery and large sized cups. In those years, the technique of glass mosaic was re-introduced. The products developed during the Hellenistic period were of exceptional quality and at the same time very expensive. The intense commercial activity led to their spread throughout the Mediterranean basin. In the first century b.C., the production began to spread in Etruria and northern Europe. In the half of the first century, was introduced a new glass technique called “blowing”, which allowed the production of items in the fastest time and, therefore, in greater quantities. The technique was imported into the Hellenistic Greece, which was widely used and improved.
When these lands were incorporated into the Roman Empire, the greatest masters settled in Rome. The Romans themselves improved even more in the glass production. The glass was also used in ornaments and fancy goods, as well as in buildings and mosaics. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the techniques and taste achieved moved to the new power centre of Byzantium. Bisanzio improved the glass technique and conquered the world market for about 500 years. In Byzantium, was invented the system of superimposing two layers of glass which, the one below, was covered with a sheet of gold that could be seen in surface. An important witness of this technique is represented by the beautiful red glass bowl with a gilded silver frame that is part of the Treasury of St. Mark in Venice.
During the Carolingian era, the glass was used in windows glass. With the invention of lead strips used as a support, shapes similar to mosaics could be done. Simultaneously, in Islamic countries, a similar glass production continues. In the XII° and XIII° century, with the Gothic style, was increased the importance of stained glass included in the cathedrals architectural structures. Simultaneously, there was a large production of cups, vases and glasses. In the thirteenth century, Venice is one of the most important glass production, even though there are evidences that in the X° century productions of simple objects such as bottles existed.
Techniques and design of history Murano glass
The techniques and design in of history Murano glass go back to Byzantine and Islamic tradition. It is about a high quality of sodium glass which was decorated with “applications drops or wires.” Since the thirteenth century onwards, Venice starts to become the leading producer of glass in Europe. Meanwhile, in order to hamper the fires that developed in the kilns of the city, glass factories moved to the island of Murano by order of the Senate of the Republic. Glass masters such: Angelo Barovier, who invented crystal and a kind of opaque glass suited for blowing will be remember in time. Other well known masters: Mastr’Angelo from Murano, Nicolò Mocetto, Iacobo’s brothers, Bono d’Angelo and Giorgio Ballarin. The manual skills of these artists drew the attention of the courts of Europe who tried to persuade them to emigrate promising them big profits. For this reason, the Government of the Serenissima, forbade masters to expatriate penalty, the seizure of all their property and death by hired killer if they came back home.
In the sixteenth century Filippo Catani, patented the “retortoli filigree”, characterized by spiral milk glass threads inside the wall. Despite the strict laws that hindered the diffusion of glass masters’ secrets, someone decided to move abroad pushed by interesting promised compensation. There was a development of production called “the style of Venice” in different european regions. Thus, over the years, the Venetian monopoly began to suffer the competition from British and Bohemia productions. At the end of the sixteenth century Prague began to develop “wheel engraving”, a technique that allows to carve on hard stone and glass. This technique was also spread in Murano. In the last years of 1600, Ravenscroft invented glass crystal that gave life to an intense production of glasses, cups, plates, cups, jugs and bottles.
At the end of the seventeenth century Great Britain was already a political and economic power and also became one of the major producer of crystal. The English style is a model imitated throughout the world. During the nineteenth century, in England was experienced the decoration techniques “crystall-ceramics”, etching acid, mould pressing and transfer printing; while, in the U.S., there were a large number of patents related to glass colour, molding pressure and production systems that reduce costs and allow you to produce large quantities. Meanwhile, Murano, after the fall of the Venetian Republic, experienced a period of decline with a strong reduction of its production. Around 1830, signs of recovery began to be seen, thanks to the interest of foreign collectors. There was a rebirth of some glassware that used some of the ancient techniques of fusion. We began to hear of big names such as Salviati, Seguso and Moretti. In 1861, the Museum of Murano glass was founded and the following year the glass masters’ school design.
At the end of the nineteenth century depopulated the Art Nouveau with its floral themes, this style also affects the production of Murano glass. The Murano glass production is reborn at the beginning of this century thanks to the Biennale in 1914, where enameled glasses by Vittorio Toso Borella and the murrine by Vittorio Zecchin (at the time director of glassware Cappellin) had a great success. Venini & C. relaunched, in those years, the clear and colourful crystal. The twentieth century, with the arrival of huge quantity of tourism, glassware began to produce and export their products worldwide. Famous names like: MVM Cappellin & C., Vetri Soffiati Muranesi, Venini & C., Seguso Vetri d’Arte, Ferro Toso Barovier, Salir, Avem and Moretti, highlighted this secular art.