Carnivals are costumed festivities which bring together the traditions of dress-up, masquerades, colorful fairs, and street performances. Many countries, regions and towns traditionally have held carnivals right before Christian Lent. Translated from Latin, the word Carnival itself actually means “farewell to meat”. While the roots of Christian carnivals go back to the pagan traditions of Roman Empire, the first carnivals associated with Christianity appeared in various European towns around the IX century AD.
The first mention of the Carnival in Venice dates to year 1094 AD. Most likely Venetian Carnival became an annual event after 1162, the year when people gathered in Venice’s St. Mark’s square to celebrate victory in the war with Aquilea by dancing, singing, eating and drinking.
The most famous accessory of the Venetian Carnival is, of course, the mask, so you may be surprised to learn that no masks were actually worn during Carnivals until XIII to XIV century. The creation of an authentic Venetian mask is an ancient and complicated process. The gypsum form is filled with a layer of papier-mache made using a special recipe. The resulting form is set aside to dry, then polished and the holes are cut through for the eyes. A layer of paint is then often used to make the masks look antique. The last stage of mask creation is decorating – a slow and elaborate process with use of acrylic paints, real gold and silver foils, enamel, expensive fabrics, Swarovski crystals, plumes, beads and various other elements limited only by the fantasy and talent of the artist who creates the mask. Continue reading »
Murano Glass is beautiful and unique with hundreds of years of artistic tradition behind it. Venetian masters learned from the ancient Roman artifacts and from Byzantine and Egyptian artisans to create masterpieces of blown glass using many different complicated and labor-intensive techniques, such as Millefiori, Sommerso, Bullicante, Filligrana, Lattimo, and others. Unfortunately as Murano Glass masters became famous beyond Venice so spread the fakes. Known as “A la façon de Venise” (or “in Venetian fashion”) glass pieces imitating Murano were made as early as the 16th century in Netherlands, England, France and later Bohemia and other parts of Europe. The very latest fakes are now coming from Asia, China in particular, and flooding the market to the extent that real authentic Murano pieces become harder and harder to find.
We at GlassOfVenice.com love Venice and support Venetian artisans, many of whom come from the long lineage of Murano glass maestros going back to the Middle Ages. Authentic Murano Glass still trumps all the fakes with its exquisite craftsmanship, gorgeous colors and amazing designs that Italian artisans are well known for. Here is our exclusive quick guide to how to avoid being cheated and always select genuine Murano Glass handcrafted in Venice. Murano stands for more than fine craftsmanship – it’s art, tradition, Venetian memories, and rich cultural and artistic heritage of La Serenissima. Get a real piece of Murano Glass – you’ll be glad you did!
Italy is one of the top countries on every traveler’s bucket list, with over 46 million tourists visiting every year! This is no surprise – with it’s winning mix of history, culture, architecture, natural beauty, cuisine, art and fashion, Italy attracts people with all sorts of interests, from all walks of life. Yet with Italy’s incredible multitude of options comes a challenge – how to balance the different kinds of experiences to make your visit the best it can be? We at GlassOfVenice.com have spent considerable time in Italy, both on our regular merchandising visits and, for some of us, living there. So we decided to compile our ten best Italian travel tips to help all who are interested in Italy to get the most out of their next visit. We hope you will find our advises helpful – please comment and share away!
1. Do not try to cover too much ground in a short time
Italy is famous for its cultural and artistic treasures, rich history, natural beauty, great food, fine wines, top fashion and too many other things to list on one page. It is also a big country that consists of multiple regions, each with its own history, culture, and cuisine. So it’s no wonder that Italy is high on the list of every tourist’s “must-see” places and that once there, visitors try to do it all, often in relatively short amount of time. If you are like most tourists and only have one or two weeks at a time to spare, we urge you not to make a mistake of checking off boxes on the “been there done that” list and rushing from city to city and from attraction to attraction. Instead, choose one or two regions, pick just a few towns, spend a few days in each place, take it in, feel its spirit, and resolve to come back later to see more of Italy. Trying to cover a few key cities, such as Venice, Florence and Rome in the first visit is another popular strategy, but you need to be mindful of the time it takes to travel between them and understand that each one is a multifaceted cultural gem that needs several full days to be explored, although even in that time you will only scratch the surface.
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Murano Island in Venice is world-renown for amazing art glass that has evolved from its humble utilitarian beginnings into an art form over the centuries. Part of the reason is the sheer concentration of glass furnaces on the island and the length of time that the artisans have been experimenting and creating, leading to virtuosity in techniques and styles. One of the most famous and oldest glassworks on Murano is Venini, the family that has given the world generations of talented Murano Glass artists. The surprising part, however, is that in the twentieth century Venini glassworks helped create a new breed of masterful and innovative artists, those that were born outside of Murano and even Italy.
In breaking with Murano’s long-standing tradition of shielding the glassmakers’ world from the outsiders, Venini started serving as a learning site for American artists eager to learn the secrets of Murano Glass masters. Over the years, the Venini glass factories have hosted American-born talents such as Thomas Stearns, Dale Chihuly, and Richard Marquis, all of whom ultimately helped expand Murano’s fame far beyond Italy. These prominent artists have traveled to Murano on the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship and were fascinated by the medium of glass and the artistic possibilities it offered.. However, although they share a country of origin and a common passion which expanded the boundaries of glass work, they are as different and unique as the handmade glass pieces they produce. Continue reading »
It is rare to see the very best of artistic Murano Glass created by prominent Venetian artists outside of Venice, let alone in the United States. For a short time this May and June all lovers and collectors of Murano Glass in the United States can enjoy a wonderful exhibition of Murano Glass Art at Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. The exhibition features 33 beautiful glass art pieces by Giampaolo Seguso, a member of the renowned Seguso dynasty—a family which has been crafting glass on the island of Murano for over 600 years! The legacy of glass work goes back twenty-two generations in the Seguso family, and has garnered them international acclaim.
The pieces on display are each accompanied by a poem by Giampaolo Seguso himself, which reflects of the meaning of existence, nature, and beauty, merging together Seguso’s gifts for visual, as well as verbal arts. It is so rare to capture beauty in one medium, but Seguso ambitiously endeavors to capture it doubly, creating something new and profound. The name of the exhibition, La Ragnatela, is Italian for “spider web,” referring to Filigrana technique of glass-making invented on Murano in the 16th century. This complex technique uses glass canes that are positioned parallel to each other and then melted together so as to create delicate spiral or web-like patterns within the glass. Seguso was so enchanted by the endless artistic possibilities offered by Filigrana technique that he authored the book, La Ragnatela, published in 2001, which is the culmination of his research and personal application of the Murano Filigrana technique. Like all in-demand artists, Giampaolo Seguso and his art have traveled the world, holding exhibitions in Norway, Germany, and Brazil.
La Ragnatela presentation can be visited at the Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. This exquisite exhibition opened its doors on April 10th and will continue to wow the collectors and those interested in Murano Glass until June 13, 2014, so make plans to see it soon.
by Kevin Grinberg
If you find yourself viewing masterful glass works and feel the urge to smile, then odds are you are in the presence of a Fulvio Bianconi design. Famous for producing glass art that celebrates individuality, sensuality, and the light-hearted side of life, Bianconi pieces are still very popular today due to their lively colors, dynamic shapes, and the enduring popularity of his pezzato style.
An artistic prodigy, Bianconi began apprenticing at Murano Glass furnaces as young as sixteen. He later used his amusing style and undeniable talent to consult on and produce cartoons for the Italian Ministry of Popular Culture, until the end of World War II. However, it wasn’t long before the island of Murano and the glass furnaces of his youth called on him, and in 1947 the prominent Murano Glass master Paolo Venini hired him as a designer for a series of perfume glass bottles. The financial independence granted to him by his work as a graphic designer allowed him to dedicate an ample amount of time to freelance work for Venini, which yielded works characteristic of his free spirited and playful style. This did not sit well with the glass artisans at Murano initially. The trademark of a gifted glass artisan in Murano at the time was the ability to perfectly recreate a style or design, and their celebration of flawless repetition could not have been farther from Bianconi’s perception of what constituted mastery, beauty and technique. Bianconi is credited as saying, “…the artistic glass has to be unique, if it is repeated it loses its charm…” Continue reading »
Although we love them all year round, what a wonderful thing it is that there is a day to celebrate our mothers and all of the contributions they make to our lives. Make this day truly memorable for her by surprising her with hand-crafted, Murano glass accessories that show just how much she means to you. Also, take advantage of our Mother’s Day sale and save 15% on your order by using the MOM15 coupon code during your checkout at GlassOfVenice.com.
Below are a few suggestions to help you get started:
For the fashionista mother
We recommend selecting one of our elegant necklaces that are made of finely crafted Murano glass beads. The Vecchia Murano necklace, whose impeccable beauty is expressed through the use of beads of complementing cranberry and cocoa tones, and finished with a elegant and secure, is one such item. Our selection of necklaces and other fashion accessories include diverse pieces that vary by color, style, and length. Receiving hand-crafted, Murano glass jewelry is sure to leave any mother speechless on her special day. Continue reading »
Easter is an important time in Italy, not only from religious, but also from spiritual and family perspective. Learning more about Italian celebrations and events around Easter time and getting to know the traditions so meaningful and dear to Italians will bring you richer cultural experience when you travel to Italy. Continue reading »
Venetian Carnival, an intriguing mix of gorgeous masquerades, street fairs, high-end balls, and tourist craze set against the beautiful backdrop of Venice, is one of the most famous and highly anticipated events in the world. The Venetian Carnival in its present form has been celebrated since 1979 when Italian government and Venetian civic society decided to revive it as an attempt to re-ignite interest in Venice and its rich traditions. However, the original Venetian Carnival has a long history that dates back to the 12th century, if not earlier, and many of the traditions and glamorous highlights of today’s Carnival come straight from the Middle Ages.
Origins of the Venetian Carnival
Many scholars agree that Venetian Carnival has its roots in Christian tradition and that it has likely evolved as a way for people to indulge in life’s pleasures and have fun in the days before the solemn period of Christian Lent (a time of sorrow and reflection leading up to the Holy Week). One of the theories is that the Italian word “Carnevale” comes from the two Latin words “carne” meaning meat, and “vale” meaning farewell or goodbye, signifying the fact that during Lent people had to fast, avoid temptation, and give up life’s luxuries, in order to concentrate on prayer, reflection, and self-denial.
However, the Carnival’s history likely runs even deeper. Venice was founded by Romans escaping barbarians and built on the remains of crumbling Roman Empire. As such, it has deep roots going all the way back into Roman and even Greek history. Hence, Roman celebration of Saturnalia and Greek Dionysian festival before it are thought to have played a role in Venetians’ desire for a festival that allows people to be free from social norms. Saturnalia in ancient Rome was a time of complete break from normal social order and hierarchical boundaries, when masked slaves and Roman citizens alike celebrated with music, dances, symbolic acts, and orgies. Continue reading »
The most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day, is approaching with the speed of Cupid’s arrow, bringing with it the perpetual quest for a perfect memorable gift. This year you can surprise your sweetheart with a museum-quality piece of Murano Glass for a gift that will always be treasured. In addition to gifting the marvelous work of Murano Glass, you are also granting your loved one an experience that is associated with the romantic aura of Venice and the artistic heritage of the famed Murano Island in the Venetian Lagoon.
This distinct and labor-intensive method of glass-working originated in Venice many centuries ago, most likely passed down by the ancient Romans, who spotted wonderful and elegant glass pieces that Egyptians loved to use. Since 1291 the glassmakers on Venetian island of Murano have held the ranks of rule over the industry of blown glass works for centuries. As a result, the skilled artisans who create Murano Glass pieces continue to spend painstaking hours upon hours practicing a craft that has been passed down by generations of glassmakers and apprentices. Individuals who work with glass in Venice are held in high esteem thanks to the beauty and craftsmanship put into their glasswork. Today, the same techniques and traditions continue to be used in the formation of Murano Glass pieces.
When you purchase a piece of authentic Murano Glass in the U.S., you are getting the convenience and security of knowing your order will be reliably processed and promptly shipped, without sacrificing the quality. And the handcrafted and individually designed pieces using the techniques of Murano Glass that you will give to your precious Valentine will come along with visions of romantic canal rides and beautiful sunsets over the Venetian Lagoon, giving them the sentimental value not found in any other gift. Heart shaped pendants, necklaces, and earrings fashioned using centuries’ old techniques make wonderful gifts for women who love unique artisan jewelry. There are plenty of fine gifts for men as well, including designer cufflinks to add elegance and style to a man’s wardrobe, along with exquisite office accessories and barware for the men who prefer upscale designer accessories and value European quality and artistic tradition.
High-end pieces such as intertwined Murano Glass lovers are made with intricate detail using the famed Murano glass techniques. For Valentines who love the look of art, go all out with a tabletop sculpture featuring this amazing art form. Consider a sculpture of rich red heart or love birds for a dining room centerpiece. A Murano Glass sculpture will remain gorgeous and translucent as the years go by – it will never fade, go out of style, or shrink too small. Additionally, you are giving your loved one a piece of history that can be passed down through generations. This Valentine’s Day as you shop for the ultimate in treasured romance, choose a handcrafted, one of a kind keepsake made by passionate Venetian artisans practicing centuries’ old Murano Glass art.
by Kevin Grinberg