Murano’s history is made by hundreds of talented and ingenious glass masters. Many of them attained prominence centuries ago, while others are still stunning the world with dazzling creations. Others have collaborated together to evolve the glass-making industry and bring it global fame, which it is still enjoying today. Each and every one of them, however, has contributed invaluably to Murano’s history and beauty, surprising admirers and collectors with new ideas, artistic boldness, and alluring designs. Such is the case of the Barbini family, who has been an important presence in Murano’s history since ages ago, and is still present in today’s picture.
The Barbini family goes back a long way. Their story in the Murano Glass industry can be traced back to the XVI century, when the family name was added to Venice’s Golden Book, a book known for containing the crème de la crème of Venetian noble families and the best glass masters, whose guild received special permission to be in the Book. Members of the Barbini family played active roles in Venice’s history for a long time, be it in politics, commerce, or different areas of glass production. Many of them became famous thanks to their beautiful Venetian mirrors, others thanks to their enamel glass, others still for making majestic chandeliers. Some members of the Barbini family even moved to abroad in order to create decorative glass exclusively for royal houses and the wealthiest foreign families. During the following centuries the Barbini family started counseling other glass masters, such as Pietro Bigaglia, the Briati family, the Bertolini brothers and Benetto Barbaria. All of them in turn went on to make significant contributions to Murano’s glass-blowing innovations and history.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
L’Isola – Carlo moretti showroom in Venice
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.
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.