The Great Murano Glass Masters: Barovier Family

Barovier name is synonymous with Murano Glass. Over the centuries various members of Barovier family have been leaders, innovators, and vigorous promoters of Murano Glass art. Barovier & Toso is an Italian glass-making company, one of Murano’s most ancient families in the craft, and yet one whose style transcends time and whose quality has been consistently held in high regard for centuries. Nominated as the world’s longest established family of glass workers, and one of the world’s oldest continuously operating family businesses, for almost a thousand years Barovier’s family business has maintained keen interest in culture, constant innovation and drive for perfection.

The Venetian glass-making tradition – of which the Barovier family has been a frequent leader – is the very core of this family’s unique creations; it is the starting point of the Barovier history. The first known records of Barovier family members working as glass masters on Murano date back to 1324, specifically mentioning Jacobello Barovier and his sons Antonio Barovier and Bartolomeo Barovier. The descendants of Viviano Barovier and Jacobo Barovier who lived and worked on Murano island in the 14th century gave rise to the more famous Barovier family members who became well known during Renaissance.

Barovier Wedding Cup Murano Museum

Barovier wedding goblet, blue glass decorated with polychrome enamel, 1470-1480, Murano, Venice, Italy, 15th century

But it is thanks mainly to Angelo Barovier that this Venetian household left a rather significant mark on the history of Murano Glass and decorative arts. Angelo had scientific education and continuously experimented with chemical makeup and physical properties of the glass, leading him to discovery of reliable methods for creation of crystalline glass, as well as lattimo and chalcedony glass. Around 1450, Angelo discovered how to accomplish what then appeared miraculous to most people: perfectly clear transparent glass or “vetro cristallino” in Italian. This glass was clear and pure as none other, and it fit perfectly with the beauty ideals of the Renaissance. Around the same time, Angelo created a beautiful glass object: the famous Barovier wedding cup. This cup was a wedding present, a unique chalice made of dark blue glass with gold and enamel decorations, in which both bride and groom were depicted in two medallions. This precious piece miraculously survived till modern times and is now kept in Murano’s Glass Museum, Palazzo Giustinian.

A few years later, three Barovier brothers came up with the family emblem: the Barovier Crest, created by putting together their craft signs (an angel, a bell and a star). Throughout the centuries the family business changed names a few times, being known as Fratelli Barovier or Artisti Barovier. And just as their name evolved, so did their technique. Awards and exhibitions started coming their way, rewarding the prestigious works of this ancient furnace. During the XVIII century, patents were introduced to protect their artworks and techniques. Such patents were granted for the “vetro madreperla” (mother-of-pearl glass) and the “rosso corniola senza oro” (corniola red without gold), the first being a technique for producing opalescent pearly glass, the second indicating a gold-free cornelian red kind of glass.

At the end of World War I, the brand changed its name once more, this time becoming Vetreria Artistica Barovier, welcoming the son of Benvenuto Barovier, Ercole, who would lead the company into the XX century. After completing his classical studies, Ercole began his career as a designer and entrepreneur, right away showing the signs of a special talent for glassmaking. Shortly after starting working, he took over the family business giving free rein to extensive research and technological innovation.

Ercole’s love for color was unstoppable, as was his strive for quality. His passion and curiosity led him to create new colors, new formulas and new ways to manufacture glass. It was a total revolution in the line of work, making famous Italian architect Giò Ponti describe Ercole Barovier as the one responsible for many changes and developments in the glassmaking industry. Every passing decade brought new passion for Ercole, as he turned his attention to color, shape, form, techniques, and every contemporary artistic movement that happened around him. His love for this craft led him to create over 25,000 glass designs, bringing him worldwide success.

Barovier & Toso Chandelier

In 1936, the company merged with another very important enterprise in the glassmaking industry: Ferro Toso, thus becoming Barovier&Toso. Under this new name, Ercole produced some of his most marvelous creations, stopping his work just a few years before he passed away in 1972. Ercole’s son, Angelo, took the reins of the company and followed his family’s distinguished creative path. It was pretty obvious that Angelo had inherited his father’s dexterity and talent, and it took him little time to express these special gifts in many artistic fields. He not only continued to develop the family’s trademark creative designs, he also improved its management system and gave the label a much more modern view towards the future.

Angelo focused on the clientele, paying attention to the contemporary artistic trends and the preferences of clients. He gave the company the distinctive vision it was lacking and the direction to achieve it. Among Barovier & Toso’s most famous contemporary works was a special chandelier for the Palace of the King of Saudi Arabia in Taif, now famous as the Taif Chandelier. Angelo managed to conceive the perfect mix of Venetian style and Arab decorative themes in one single piece. This artwork soon became an icon of the Barovier & Toso Company.

Murano Glass Rooster designed by Ercole Barovier

Ferro Toso Barovier, designed by Ercole Barovier, art glass with gold leaf rooster.

Angelo took control of the family business into the 1980’s, quickly developing strategic methods and structures in order to get the Barovier name across the globe. The Barovier brand was no longer associated with a small Venetian furnace, it was now a synonym of Murano’s biggest and most renowned glass-making company. Following the family’s history, Angelo’s son, Jacopo, guided the house’s progress in recent years. Learning well from his father, Jacopo paid extra attention to the necessities of the times he lived in, and he quickly discovered the growing need of special lighting devices. His lamps and chandeliers would soon become exquisite adornments in big public spaces of hotels, houses and shops of world-renowned names such as Dolce & Gabbana, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, and Waldorf Astoria.

The unmistakable style and exceptional quality of each of the Barovier pieces continues to be an example and a standard of excellence in the glass industry today. With Murano’s longest glass-making experience in their past and a creative team that offers nothing but the best in quality and innovation, Barovier & Toso guarantees every customer an artistic yet professional solution to their most whimsical projects. Personalizing each product from the catalog to the client’s special indications brings out not only successful glass designs, but also a wide range of new creative alternatives.

In the midst of Italy’s financial troubles and much soul-searching among Murano glass artisans and artists in the market flooded by Asian counterfeits, Barovier’s family success is a bright story indicating a creative and financially sustainable path into the future for the ancient Murano Glass art that survived history’s ups and downs and continues to dazzle millions of people around the world.


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