When talking about Murano’s history in glassmaking, it is natural to find only the best of the best glass masters working on these precious and unique designs. Some of these stories are full of unexpected surprises, stunning beginnings, and eminent success. Such is the case of Venini, one of Italy’s oldest and most renowned glass masters of all times.
Born in a small town near Milan in 1895, Paolo Venini studied to become a lawyer but would soon change course when he crossed paths with fellow Italian Giacomo Cappellin. In 1921, the two Italian entrepreneurs opened their first glass factory in Murano, naming it Vetri Soffiati Muranesi Cappellin Venini & C. A third associate, Andrea Rioda, would later join the team. The idea was to reopen Rioda’s glass factory and summon back all of the company’s former glassblowers, taking advantage of the firm’s long history and know-how. Unfortunately, their plans did not go accordingly due to Rioda’s departing before the beginning of production. The partnership further dissolved after Cappellin decided to part ways in 1925 in order to launch another firm, taking many glass masters with him along the way. Venini, however, managed to reposition himself as one of Murano’s leading glass masters, renaming his company Venini & C.
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When it comes to organizing a trip to Venice, the itineraries are full of famous attractions that appear on every travel advice web-site and every must-see list you will ever come across. Among those are The Doge’s palace, and Basilica San Marco, Accademia Gallery and Ca’ Rezzonico, The Campanile and The Astronomical Clock. Hunting for those top attractions, you will stand in lines for hours and run into crowds of tourists who are all hungry to see the same things you came to see. This may leave you aggravated, distressed, and wondering what you may have done better to have more authentic venetian experience. You need not worry – we will let you in on the hidden secrets, the activities that many miss, the attractions that are still relatively quiet, not overrun with tourists, and promise a wonderful authentic experience.
1. Get To Know Venice’s Craftsmanship: Gondola Building Workshop
Get to know one of the few remaining gondola yards in Venice. Just a few steps down the canal near the Accademia Bridge, one can find Venice’s only remaining original gondola-building and maintainance yard, the Squero San Trovaso workshop. Nowadays it works mainly as a maintenance and repair point, but during the 1600’s it was Venice’s busiest production point for the ten thousand gondolas that once traveled along its canals and into the Lagoon. The squero is not open to the public but if you visit during the working hours you can see the work from the outside, and it is a fascinating experience. Each gondola is made out of eight different types of wood, exactly as it was hundreds of years ago, and includes lots of exclusively carved elements. Because gondolas are still crafted in a traditional way, it takes over a month to build one, and it usually can be in service for about 15 years, after which it must be refinished and can last another ten years. There are woodcarving workshops that create various wooden parts for gondolas and are very interesting to visit to see this ancient craft in action. The workshop of Paolo Brandolisio a few steps behind Piazza San Marco is a great one to visit. There are several guided tours for visitors, like the two hour Oltrex tour starting from Riva degli Schiavoni, or the one day experience Venice for Children, that encompasses a whole seminar on gondola making and a tour on vaporetto through the Arsenale and the Naval Museum. After getting to know this craft better, one will never see a gondola the same way again, for they are unique custom made vessels with centuries of history and craftsmanship, and not one is identical to another.
2. Get To Know Venice’s Art: Querini Stampalia Museum
Tucked away in a pretty corner of sestiere Castello is another one of Venice’s hidden jewels, the Querini Stampalia Museum. Born out of the desire to continue and share the knowledge of artistic studies, the Fondazione Querini Stampalia was created in 1869 according to the will of Count Giovanni Querini Stampalia. Having died with no heirs, Querini Stampalia, a prominent member of Venetian nobility, left all his belongings, including a gorgeous Palazzo and amazing library, to the City Of Venice, with the intent of creating a museum open to the public. That same year the Palazzo was converted to a beautiful museum, where all of Querini-Stampalia’s original interiors, furnishings, and artworks gathered by him and generations of his predecessors, are carefully preserved. The museum is one of the best house-museums in Europe, offering a peek into the life of Venetian nobility in the eighteenth century, from elaborate salons to elegant bedrooms, complete with frescoes, paintings, and gorgeous decor, including Murano Glass. Venice lovers and history buffs will be blown away by the museum’s unique collection of paintings that depict, in precise detail, the many Venetian celebrations, public events, holidays and historical moments as seen in the eighteenth century. The almost photographic nature of these paintings, along with excellent descriptions available in several languages, allow us to vividly imagine how Venetians lived, what they looked like, how they entertained themselves, and what they cared about centuries ago. Another feature of this museum is its unique library that contains over 350,000 books, and remains open late in the evening and even during holidays, following its founder’s will. Inside Querini-Stampalia living quarters the different artworks on display include paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Pietro Longhi, and Giandomenico Tiepolo, among others, antique Venetian furniture, sculptures, Murano glass chandeliers, mirrors, and decorative glassware, French porcelain, tapestries, and other historic pieces dating all the way back to the XIV century.
3. Explore One Of Venice’s Newer Museums
Punta della Dogana is the site of Venice’s historical naval customs house, or Dogana da Mar. The long Customs building we see today graced with a beautiful sculpture of Atlas holding up the globe, symbolizing the supremacy of Venice, dates from 1682. The Customs house continued to be in operation until 1980’s, becoming a link connecting Venice’s past with its present. After the building stopped being used for this purpose, it was abandoned and had been dilapidated by neglect. Finally, the city of Venice decided to put this building back into use and awarded the tender for renovating the space to François Pinault (French billionaire businessman and avid art collector). In the new hands this building underwent a glorious restoration by architect Tadao Ando in 2008. The amazing architecture is enough for one to spend a whole morning admiring the place. It has been described as having an “industrial and minimalist soul”, thanks to its polished concrete floors, steel anchors and exposed brick walls. The museum hosts temporary art exhibitions and presents works from Pinault’s own extensive collection.
4. See The Original Venetian Ghetto
If one prefers to spend the day strolling along some not-so-crowded streets while learning little-known Venetian history, the Venetian Jewish Ghetto is just the area to visit. Located in the Cannaregio district, this Venetian ghetto is actually the first Jewish ghetto in all of Europe, instituted in March of 1516. Jews were present in Venice as far back as the tenth century though they were not allowed to settle there. Later in 1290, Jewish merchants and moneylenders received permission to work in Venice conditioned upon paying a special 5% tax on their import and export transactions. Finally, forced by the needs for financing brought on by the city’s flourishing commerce, Venice’s government allowed Jewish moneylenders to settle in the city in 1385 and even gave them land to be used as a cemetery. However, attitudes towards Jews were becoming progressively worse over the following two centuries, as the growing prosperity of Jewish residents stoked fears of their influence on Venice’s Christian society. Hence after much deliberation in 1516 Venice’s ruling counsel decided to confine Jews to a small part of Venice called Ghetto, named after the foundries (getti) that were once located in the area. The most densely populated area of Venice in the centuries past, Ghetto was set up on an island, which provided a natural way to close it up at night and segregate its inhabitants from the rest of Venice. Ghetto features Venice’s tallest buildings where Jewish residents were forced to dwell as their numbers swelled, since they were prohibited from settling beyond the confines of this small island. The Ghetto area historically had been divided into two different sections: the New Ghetto, and the Old Ghetto, the former was inhabited by the Ashkenazi Jews from Germany and Italy, while the latter was the settlement of the Sephardic Jews from the Levant. This division can turn out to be rather confusing, sincein the historical sense the New Ghetto is actually older than the “old” one.
Despite the horrendous devastation of Jewish life in Venice brought on by Holocaust, this part of Venice is still the center of Jewish life, although out of only 500 Jewish residents of Venice just 30 still live in the Ghetto. The area offers a peek into the rich history of Jews in Venice, the vibrant society that once sparked the interest of William Shakespeare, who described some of the local Judeo-Christian tensions in his “Merchant Of Venice”. The Ghetto is also a place to enjoy traditional cuisine in a few good kosher-certified restaurants, as well as browse Judaic shops and check out historic synagogues.
5. Find Hidden Gems Among Venetian Churches
Switching the subject to Venice’s Christian history, in the same Cannaregio district we can also find little-known but very old Madonna dell’Orto Church, a beautiful brickwork construction build in the XIV century. Constructed under the direction of Tiberio da Parma (who is buried inside the church), it was built by the now-defunct religious order of the “Humiliati” and initially dedicated to Saint Christopher, patron saint of travelers. Its name would later change, dedicating the church to the Holy Virgin, thanks to a famous statue of a Madonna that was discovered in an orchard (orto) near the church. Its façade shows impressive brickwork walls, while the inside includes a nave and two isles framed with Greek marble columns. The paintings found inside are invaluable: there are a number paintings by renowned Venetian artist Tintoretto, and some works by Bellini and Titian. Tintoretto, who was born in Venice in 1518, had a long and very productive career as a painter in Venice, having executed many paintings and large-scale frescoes in palazzo Del Doge, numerous churches, and Scuolas. Paintings “Worship of the Golden Calf” and the “Last Judgment” in Madonna Dell’Orto are the ones that brought Tintoretto initial acclaim, setting him on the path to fame and prosperity. While working on his commissions for this church, Tintoretto lived in a small Gothic house next to the church looking out to Fondamenta de Mori, which still stands today. Tintoretto died in 1594 and is buried in Madonna dell’Orto church, next to his beloved daughter Marietta who died four years before him at the age of thirty. The terracotta bust on Tintoretto’s tomb is the work of famous Murano Glass artist and sculptor, Napoleone Martinuzzi, created in 1937.
Venice is a city full of secrets that will surely marvel tourists. There is nothing as charming as walking along Venice’s back alleys and allowing oneself to get lost in the history of the city. It is not only the museums that can offer this, but its palaces, its restaurants, its canals, its churches and its people. Venice is a city to be enjoyed in countless ways, we only need to learn where to look.
Venice is so incredibly romantic under the rain. Yet it is also true that it can be more difficult to wander through its streets when bad weather ruins your plans. Rains are frequent in the Fall and Winter, weather can turn quite cold from time to time, and aqua alta, or flood, can always happen, but the good thing is there are many attractions one can visit when the weather in Venice gets wet. Plus, there is nothing better than a good cup of Italian hot chocolate, or “cioccolata calda” to make bad weather much more bearable.
First of all, it is necessary to pack with rain in mind. When it rains, the streets get crowded by merchants selling knee-high boots and umbrellas, yet it is always best to travel with proper clothes (and enough pairs of shoes to have a dry one on hand). Most moving around in Venice is done by foot, so it is recommended to pack water-resistant clothes that keep you warm and comfortable. A strong umbrella is also a good choice, because it can get quite windy in the Venetian Lagoon during the colder times of the year (you will definitely notice it on board of water bus).
Aqua Alta is what Italians refer to when speaking of high water that floods the Saint Marc’s Square and neighboring alleys. To some visitors it may seem like a true Venetian adventure, but to locals it is a nightmare. If you want to experience this phenomenon and wonder through Saint Marc’s Square, you will find it is impossible to cross it by foot since the water can reach knee level. In these situation the city puts out special wooden runways that rise above the water, allowing people to walk across the piazza and reach the Basilica San Marco and the Doge’s Palace. Most businesses, however, will not be operating as usual since their owners will be busy getting the water out of their shops, trying to avoid the damage caused by it. Continue reading »
Examples of Murano Glass bullicante technique
The quality and tradition that characterize Murano’s finest glass furnaces have always been worthy of the highest appreciation. This prestige is due mostly to the glass masters’ hard work and dedication, which are the very core of Murano’s most famous trade. Glassmaking has been passed on from one generation to the next one, with constant innovations and timeless originality. The loyalty and respect with which this trade is treated is possibly the key to Murano’s success. Glass masters all over the island have always worked with endless vitality, and this creative vein is evident in every glass artwork that comes out of any furnace, with improved techniques and bewildering effects.
Always ahead of his time and anticipating any trend, Archimede Seguso was the perfect example of Murano’s best talent. Knowing how to interpret the world around him and always renewing and perfecting his production techniques, Seguso came up with one of the most astounding and marvelous of innovations, the bullicante technique.
The “bullicante” effect is amongst the most famous glass making techniques and it is seen quite often around the island of Murano. If you’ve had the fortune of strolling along the streets of Venice, you would have noticed beautiful glass pieces with small air bubbles trapped in the inside, possibly stopping to wonder how that seemingly impossible effect is achieved. This peculiar effect is obtained by placing a piece of molten glass inside a metallic mold with spikes, very much resembling a pineapple’s texture. These spikes cause small holes on the surface creating a pattern all around the glass piece. After it’s been left to cool down for a few moments, the whole piece is submerged in molten glass again. This second layer completely covers the first one. However, thanks to the thick consistency of glass, the holes previously impressed on the first layer are not covered, thus causing air to be trapped between both layers of glass. This process can be repeated several times, creating a pattern as complicated as the glass master wishes. This technique gives not only a sense of depth to the whole object, but also an incomparable decorative effect, famous for its originality.
The bullicante technique became famous during the 1930’s thanks to Archimede Seguso. Parting from his famous sommerso technique, Seguso took it to another level by taking advantage of the thickness of the glass. By using a more viscous composition, he found a way to leave small incisions unaltered and empty, in spite of covering them with another layer of glass. And while working on other light artworks like lamps, he figured the spiky tool he used on those lamps could also be helpful for the creation of dents. Seguso therefore figured out it was the size and shape of the metallic spikes that determined the position and depth of the pattern impressed on glass. He started experimenting with up to six layers of glass, trapping “bollicine” (bubbles) of air inside every layer. These bubbles reminded him of the bubbles in boiling water, thus calling this technique “bullicante” which literally means “boiling”. After mastering the technique, he went as far as decorating the inside layers with gold leaf and other colors, making each piece even more valuable and unique.
The bullicante pieces rapidly became famous amongst the Seguso artworks and were successfully exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1936. His “golden gray” vases and his “Pomona” sculpture were widely appreciated. One piece from that Biennale still exists today, and it rests inside the palazzo of Cassa di Risparmio di Venezia. It is a beautiful round vase, with a soft hint of purple, an impressive bullicante effect, and gold leaf inside; a real treasure from 1936. From this date onward, Seguso started using the bullicante technique for many artworks such as vases, animal figures, sculptures and lamps. Seguso’s specialty was the noted contrast of contemporary modern effects next to traditional historic pieces. Such is the case of lamps, where he experimented with modern patterns and compositions that would come in contrast when put together with his classic chandeliers. A very beloved collection was the aquatic themed one, for which he designed delicate fish sculptures characterized with fluid and delicate lines, leading everyone’s imagination back to the sea.
This technique, just like any other Murano Glass technique, will be appreciated by art lovers and those who can appreciate the handcrafted beauty and artisan touch. The knowledge and skill required to create gorgeous bullicante pieces comes from Murano’s long-standing glass-making heritage, the quality and originality of its creative minds, and the history of Venice’s most revered trade going back to pre-Medieval times. If you like Bullicante creations, you may see more of them in Murano’s Glass Museum or in Corning Museum Of Glass, or you can get one for your home at GlassOfVenice.com, where we offer fine examples of contemporary bullicante vases.
The glass production in Venice represents one of the most important and influencing factors of the city’s economy, and it is no secret that the best glass furnaces reside in Murano. When walking through the streets of Murano, it is almost impossible to name and enumerate all the intricate and complex techniques used in the production of these artworks. And if we were to enter a furnace and listen to the craftsmen talk, we would probably simply hear confusing words such as filigrana, retortoli, reticello, or spirale, without even knowing which technique is which. Every technique, tool, shape and type of glass has its name, quite distinct, and part of the glass masters’ vocabulary since almost a thousand years ago.
The most ancient piece of evidence documenting the existence of glass artworks dates back to the year 982, and thanks to this document, in 1982 the world celebrated a thousand years of Venetian glass artworks. Many other historic documents testify the work of furnaces along the Rio dei Vetrai river in Murano, where one can still find the finest and oldest furnaces in the city. In order to keep the industry’s secrets and glass masters from leaving, the Republic of Venice came up with several acknowledgements and distinctions to those who would create the finest and most creative of glass works. The Republic also protected some of the most important discoveries and innovations of those times, such as the “filigrana a retortoli” and “filigrana a reticello” that became famous around the sixteenth century.
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Glass making can be one of the most complex and mesmerizing crafts in the world. Since ancient times, glass has always enthralled people with its intricate forms and beautiful translucent colors. To achieve this, glass masters have worked tirelessly to develop and improve various techniques that have been passed from one generation to the other throughout the years.
When thinking of Murano glass, it is highly unlikely that we think of sand, yet this rare material is at the base of all glass production. Glass is firstly a mix of siliceous sand, soda, lime and potassium, which is put to melt inside an oven at a temperature of around 2,700 Fahrenheit. After it has become flexible enough, it is removed with a pipe that will be used to blow the glass out while the glassmaker shapes and models it. The forms and colors given to each piece depend on the tools and chemicals used during its production. The techniques are also important; since they define the way minerals will react when they come in contact with glass and the chromatic effects they will leave on each piece. The first glass works with relevant artistic techniques can be dated back to the Roman period, in which raw materials such as sea shells, ashes and sand were used in its fabrication. Nowadays, the glass masters of the Mediterranean have refined and improved each technique, mixing it with delicate craftsmanship and impeccable Italian style.
Murano Art Glass Angel Fish – Sommerso Swirls
One of the most common techniques is “Sommerso”, which in Italian literally means “submerged”. This technique is used to create several layers of glass (usually with different contrasting colors) inside a single object, giving the illusion of “immersed” colors that lay on top of each other without mixing. This is done by uniting different layers of glass through heat and repeatedly immersing them in pots of molten colored glass. This technique is quite recognizable: it is characterized by an outer layer of colorless glass and thick layers of colored glass inside it, as if a big drop of color had been captured inside the transparent glass. When one first sees these objects, it seems almost impossible to conceive such beautiful colors being locked so perfectly inside what would seem solid glass, and then undoubtedly one begins to wonder how ever did they manage to achieve such a complex game of shapes and colors right in the middle of a clear glass object.
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Murano glassmaking history is filled with extraordinary stories of success and innovation. While some glass masters’ stories may be more recent than others, they have all been characterized by clever inventiveness and dazzling dexterity. Among the most famous families of glass masters in Murano we find Fratelli Toso, with over 150 years of experience in the field. Theirs is a story of true Italian innovation and solid family bonds that have endured some of the industry’s most challenging times, proving to be tougher and stronger with the passing of time.
Fratelli Toso Murano Glass Label
Fratelli Toso Murano Glass Tumblers
In a period of doom and detriment that damaged Venice and its surrounding islands, the Toso represented Murano’s spark of hope after Napoleon’s fatal occupation. It was the end of the 18th century, and Murano glass furnaces started to close, while some artisans preferred to simply flee the island. During this period of darkness and gloom, Murano’s ancient glassmaking techniques and traditions were gradually forgotten. Nonetheless, the Toso’s first steps in the glassmaking industry represented a confident recovery for Murano and its factories.
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When talking of the great glass masters of Murano one does not necessarily need to go hundreds of years back in history. We need only look a few decades back to find some of the most ingenious and innovative minds behind this craft. Amongst them we find Carlo Moretti, a company established no more than 60 years ago, and that has proven to be a true pioneer and innovator in the history of Murano glass.
Created in 1958 in Murano by brothers Carlo and Giovanni Moretti, this company stands as one of a kind in the city’s vast history of glassmakers. Carlo Moretti gathers the excellence of Italian design, hundreds of years of Venetian tradition and immense entrepreneurial courage. The firm, born out of love and admiration for glassmaking, takes inspiration from the Venetian Lagoon and its beautiful colors. It is the very same city that acts as constant inspiration in each and every one of their designs, reflecting its movements, colors and vibrations through glass. Carlo Moretti is one of the few remaining artisan factories (fabbrica d’autore) in Murano. This means each piece that comes out of their furnaces does not only bare a serial number, but also a huge research background and customization. Collecting Moretti artworks means being fully aware of owning one of a kind pieces produced in limited editions, authentic and with masterful know-how.
Carlo Moretti Murano Showroom
A lover of classical music, traveling and architecture, Carlo Moretti was a true Venetian. Born in Murano in 1934, he studied to become a lawyer but would soon change course after discovering his passion for Murano glass. Fully dedicating his time and perseverance to glassmaking, he founded Carlo Moretti along with his brother, Giovanni, in 1958. Being the glass lover he was, Carlo took full control of the creative side of the company, looking over the design and production process at all times. Suddenly gaining recognition, he was honored with multiple awards and conference requests, sharing his passion and experience with the rest of the world. It was his love for different cultures and constant learning that gave him a keen eye for innovation. His time spent traveling and visiting uncountable museums around the world gave him an ample vision in classic and contemporary design, opening his mind to new and unforeseen trends in the glassmaking industry. Moretti’s passing in 2008, coinciding with the brand’s 50th anniversary, left his brother Giovanni at the front of the company, along with a personal style never to be forgotten.
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Venice is buzzing with expectation and joy as this year’s Carnival draws near. With countless events, concerts and parties, Venice has the perfect scenario for an epic celebration. This year, the city’s Carnival will start in late January, offering immersive experience, festivities, and great food for locals and visitors.
Just like every year, the city chooses a theme for the Carnival, and this year’s theme is “Creatum”. It encompasses the appreciation and knowledge of various trades and crafts practiced in all of Venice’s districts, showcasing them to locals and foreigners. To honor these crafts, the city is organizing an exhibition of historic archives at the Archivio dello Stato di Venezia (Venetian State Archive) opening from January 30th to February 9th. The stage will also support the Carnival’s theme, presenting the play I Rusteghi directed by Giuseppe Emiliani on February 3rd at the Carlo Goldoni Theater. Culinary talents join the feast and present Il Campo dei Sapori e delle Tradizioni (The Square of Tastes and Traditions) from February 4th to the 9th at Campo San Geremia. This will be an explosion of flavors and traditions all mixed together in a small pavilion near the train station (Ferrovia), offering the region’s most typical and representative dishes, a story being told through flavors of unique artisan delicacies.
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With famous admiration for the beautiful Venetian island of Murano and an ongoing interest for innovation, the Salviati family have traced their own and quite important path in the history of Murano glassmakers. It has never been said that in order to belong to Murano’s coveted family of glass artists one needs to be born into one, and Salviati has proven this to be right. With a past in mosaic production and an incomparable sense of pioneering, this family brought a twist to the established rules and traditions of the glassmaking industry.
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