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Is Venetian Glass The Same As Murano Glass?

Murano Glass crafted by glass masters in Murano, Italy. Photo credit: GlassOfVenice.com

Murano Glass and Venetian Glass refer to the same glassware made on Murano island in Venice, Italy. Many of GlassOfVenice customers ask whether Murano Glass and Venetian Glass are the same things and why there is confusion about the proper name. The explanation requires a brief excursion into the history of Murano Glass.

So why are both names in use and how can we be sure they mean the same thing?

  1. Murano Glass has its origins in the Venetian Lagoon. Murano Glass is an ancient craft that has its origins in ancient Egypt, then it reached new significance in the Roman Empire and after its fall the center of glassmaking emerged in the Venetian Lagoon. In the 1960s archeologists unearthed the foundations of an 8th century AD glass factory in the Venetian Lagoon on the island of Torcello. At that time Torcello was the center of life in the Venetian Lagoon, and remained so until Venice grew in importance and assumed that role.
  2. Later Venice became the center of glass-making, and Murano island was a part of Venice. More and more glass factories and workshops started to open in Venice, and by the 12th century the local glass artisans (called Fiolari) became members of an official trade guild called Arte Fiolara, or glass blowing guild. This is how the glass from the Venetian Lagoon became known as Venetian Glass. However, many of the glass furnaces registered in the city of Venice were in fact situated on Murano island, which was initially an administrative part of Venice but won its independence from Venice in 1278.
  3. In 1291 the Great Council of Venice decreed that all furnaces in the city of Venice had to be demolished due to the risk of fires, but furnaces could be constructed and operated elsewhere in the Venetian Lagoon. Murano was already at that time an independent adminsitrative center in the Venetian Lagoon. Because of this, starting in 1291 all Murano glass-making moved to Murano island, where working furnaces already existed. Of course, since then the glassware from this region received the name of Murano Glass, even though eventually glass-making was again allowed in Venice and in later centuries many factories existed in the historical center of Venice as well as on Murano island.
  4. The confusion in the proper naming of Murano glassware still exists today. The reason is mainly the fact that Murano island is currenty administratively again a part of Venice (it lost its independence from Venice in1924), so all glass made in Murano is technically glass made in Venice. Both terms, Murano Glass and Venetian Glass, can be used interchangeably but the term Murano Glass is more commonly used by artists, collectors, sellers, regulatory bodies, and even museums. Whether handmade glassware from the Venetian lagoon is called Murano Glass or Venetian Glass, it is authentic if it is handcrafted on Murano island according the ancient techniques and traditions of the craft.
Murano Glass artisans creating glassware at a glass-making factory in Murano, Italy. Photo credit: GlassOfVenice.com

At GlassOfVenice.com we believe that it is important to understand the roots of Murano Glass and its rich history in order to truly understand the unique value and historical significance of Murano Glass Art. Learn more about Murano Glass on our blog and in our special Murano Glass portal.

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Highlights Of The Murano Glass Museum

The Murano Glass Museum is a major tourist attraction on Venetian island of Murano, and one that uniquely represents the rich history of glassmaking present on the small Venetian island. Many tourists wish to visit the museum, and rightly so, as the large venue houses historical artifacts and beautiful displays that are unique to Murano.

There are both permanent and temporary exhibitions open to tourists, and those who purchase tickets are granted admission to the majority of the museum, including any special or seasonal shows. The museum was renovated recently, and the building itself is almost as beautiful as the treasures kept within it. Below, we detail some of the highlights of the Murano Glass Museum, that stand out amongst all of the stunning exhibitions.

Murano Glass Museum Permanent Exposition

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What To See And Do In Venice On A Rainy Day – Exclusive Travel Tips

VVenice Travel Tips For A Rainy Dayenice 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

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Murano Glass Making Techniques: Bullicante

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.

Murano Glass Masters symbol - Peacock

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.

Murano Glass Bullicante Vase from GlassOfVenice

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Murano Glass Making Techniques: Filigrana, Reticello, Zanfirico and More

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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The Great Murano Glass Masters: Salviati

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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History and Grandeur of Murano Glass Chandeliers

Murano Glass ChandelierVery few objects are so recognizable the world over and have been the symbols and statements of wealth for so long as Venetian Glass Chandeliers. In the 17th century, when Venice was a mighty and rich maritime republic, Venetian nobility and merchants strived to outperform each other in demonstrating their power and wealth. Murano Glass industry flourished with talented glass masters rushing to create ever more elaborate articles of interior design to satisfy demand from their rich clientele. In addition to elegant mirrors, elaborate goblets, and gold-accented tableware, the glass masters created new designs of lighting fixtures. Replacing the unattractive and unwieldy wooden and wrought iron chandeliers of the past, the new chandeliers appeared airy, translucent, sparkly, and were richly decorated for a grand opulent look.

It was in those times that one of the mightiest Venetian families of the 17th century, Rezzonico, was building their magnificent residence, Ca’ Rezzonico, overlooking the Grand Canal. Designed by Giorgio Massari, a well-known Venetian architect, and decorated by the best artists and artisans in Venice, the palace featured beautiful façade, a grand staircase, and an unusual grandiose ballroom. The uniquely constructed soaring ceiling in the Ballroom was created by eliminating the second floor in part of the building. As a highlight of this grandeur, around 1730 Rezzonico family ordered a chandelier from Murano masters, which had to fit the regal atmosphere of the residence. Using all of their technical skills and knowledge, Murano Glass masters in the factory of Giuseppe Briati created a gorgeous two-tier masterpiece in rare polychrome glass featuring twenty candle-holders. This chandelier is the most amazing such chandelier still in existence today and it still hangs in its original room in Ca’ Rezzonico where tourists can now admire its beauty.
Murano Glass Chandelier
Moreover, this Rezzonico chandelier was so beautiful and famous that it gave rise to the entire style of Murano Glass chandeliers called Rezzonico, which is still produced in Murano Glass workshops. Rezzonico style, always in high demand for residences, hotels, restaurants, luxury boats and public spaces, is characterized by opulent detailing of stems and cups, elaborate floral elements, gorgeous colors, gold decoration, and grand multi-tier structure. Other classic Venetian chandeliers created by Murano masters today continue the famous Murano Glass chandelier tradition of the late 16th – early 17th century with translucent or colorful glass, lush decorative elements, and use of 24K gold and genuine silver leaf for gorgeous and unique look. Recently, more modern and trendy chandelier designs have also become popular, reflecting contemporary artistic trends and search for leaner forms, bolder colors, and more minimalistic styles.

Murano Glass masters have always stood apart from all their competitors around the world not only because of the superior quality of their glass creations, but also thanks to their unique ability to reinvent themselves and their craft while remaining true to the artistic heritage of Venice and traditions of their forefathers. While experimenting with new styles, decorative techniques, and artistic trends, Murano glassmakers carry on the classical traditions of craftsmanship and quality that made them world-famous since the ancient times. Today the descendants of the famous glass artisans of the centuries past continue to create gorgeous chandeliers and other pieces of art glass appreciated by even the most discerning modern-day customers.

by Kevin Grinberg

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Ten Interesting Facts from the History of Glass

Humans have been fascinated by glass for millennia and have been using naturally occurring glass from volcanic activity since the Stone Age. While earliest societies around the world found glass useful for production of tools and primitive weapons, humans haven’t figured out how to make glass until the third millennium BC. During the Bronze Age glass production in Egypt and surrounding area became more sophisticated, shifting focus from rudimentary beads to useful household and decorative objects. Ancient Egyptians made lots of advances in glass-making technologies, laying ground for future boom in glass production in Ancient Rome and later on in Venice.

Here we bring you ten very interesting facts about glass that are sure to spark your curiosity about this fascinating medium.

Ancient glass display

1. Glass was first made about 3,500 years ago in the region of Egypt and Mesopotamia

2. By 1350 BC Egyptian glass masters used complex chemical processes to create opaque glass, colorless glass, and even mosaic (millefiori) glass, using canes with multiple layers of colored glass.

3. Ancient Romans revolutionized glass-making process with use of a blow-pipe in 1st century BC. This made glass-making a large industry and allowed ordinary citizens in Roman Empire to enjoy items made of glass.

4. Romans used glass beads for trade and jewelry, made elaborate glass mosaics for decorative purproses, introduced glass tableware, containers, and mirrors into large-scale use, and used clear glass for windowpanes

5. Venice became an important glass-manufacturing center in 8th century AD

6. In 1291 all Venetian glass production moved from Venice to Murano Island in the Venetian Lagoon

7. In the 15th century many of the old Roman glass-making techniques previously lost were re-invented by Murano glass masters, including famous Millefiori technique.

8. In 1480 Marietta Barovier of Murano’s namesake glass-making dynasty invented the most famous bead of all – the Rosetta (aka Chevron) bead, made using a cane and star-shaped mold in an early example of Venetian Millefiori technique. The bead was wildly popular as trade currency and was used to buy prized goods and privileges.

9. Millefiori is an Italian word meaning ‘a thousand flowers’. It first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1849. This famous glass-making technique was previously called Murrine.

10. In ancient as well as modern Murano Glass colors are traditionally achieved by adding various minerals or mineral oxides into the glass mixture. Some of the most popular minerals used include Cobalt and Azurite for Blue, Red for Gold, Iron for Green and Yellow, Manganese for Pink and Violet.

by Kevin Grinberg

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Murano Glass Beads on View in Murano Museum

Murano Glass beads are a significant part of Murano Glass history. Besides their function as a base component of Murano Glass jewelry, they were in wide use as currency (then known as trade beads) between the 16th and 20th century when Venetian merchants set voyage to the Middle East and Africa to acquire goods, services and slaves. These days Murano Glass beads produced by the talented Venetian masters represent a wide range of traditional Venetian glass-making techniques and are used to create unique Murano Glass earrings, pendants, necklaces,bracelets, cufflinks, and more. The public usually sees these finished products and does not get the behind-the-scenes look at the wide variety of exquisite Murano Glass beads which Murano artists draw upon for their creations. The Venetian beads are individually hancrafted over a flame or in the special furnace and decorated using traditional Murano glass-making techniques.

The new exhibition at Murano Glass Museum (Museo del Vetro) called “ERCOLE MORETTI. A century of Venetian pearl” seeks to familiarize the public with these beautiful pieces of Venetian Glass Art by displaying a great collection of Rosetta, Mosaic, Millefiori, and Murrina Murano Glass beads and other glass objects created over a period of a century by one of the most renown workshops of Murano, Ercole Moretti and F.lli, which this year celebrates its 100 year anniversary.

The exhibition runs at Murano’s Museo del Vetro from October 9th 2011 to January 6th 2012.



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Murano Glass Exhibitions in Venice

Venice never ceases to amaze tourists not only with its unique beauty but also with the richness of its cultural heritage and the many museums and exhibitions that offer insights into Venetian history and art. Murano glass art has recently been in the spotlight, and two current exhibitions in Venice celebrate the contribution of two very prominent Murano glass creators – the Venini glassworks and Lino Tagliapietra – to the 20th century renaissance of this ancient Venetian art form.

The first exhibition dedicated to 90 years of Venini family glassworks is called NOVANTESIMO VENINI, 1921 – 2011, and is open until July 10, 2011 at the Murano Glass Museum. It highlights in chronological order the achievements of the famous Venetian glass masters from Venini Glass Company in the time span from 1921 through 2011 and features about 100 works characteristics of various artistic periods in the life of the company.

In another very exciting development, the first ever exhibition of the masterpieces created by world-famous Murano glass master Lino Tagliapetra is set up in Venice and will stay open until May 22, 2011 to the delight of all Venetian glass and Tagliapietra fans. The exhibition is housed in beautiful Grand Canal Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti, the home of Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti and features a selection of the best art glass pieces created by the master in the last decade. Lino Tagliapietra, who was born in Murano, Italy in 1934, is one of the most prominent Venetian glass masters currently working, and his creations can be seen in galleries, museums, public spaces and private collections around the world.

If you are in Venice this Spring and Summer, we highly recommend that you visit one or both of these exhibitions for a rare in-depth look at the modern interpretation of the ancient art form that is so unique and characteristic of Venice.

To learn more about Murano glass history and techniques, please visit GlassOfVenice.com

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