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A most Venetian collectable: Murano glass

A most Venetian collectable: Murano glass

A most Venetian collectable: Murano glass

My love affair with Venice started at an early age when I visited the city of romance with my family as a child. Even then, my wide eyes were drawn to the beautiful glassware items in shop windows. So when I grew to be a woman and developed the hobby of antiquing and poking about in markets and bric-a-brac shops, I found I couldn’t resist picking up pieces that called to me.

Murano glass originated in the 13th century on the island of Murano, a mere kilometre or so from central Venice. There, Venetian glassmakers, whose roots lay in Egyptian glass crafting (since Rome had conquered Egypt), gathered together. Most historians agree that the reason for the move was that the furnaces the glass makers used to forge the glass were deemed too risky a fire hazard in the timber-built properties of Venice city; but some believe that the Murano craftsmen were deliberately ostracised on the island to protect closely the secret of their art. Either way, as more and more glassmakers relocated to the island, Murano became the capital of glassmaking in Europe. So revered became the glass masters (after all, they were a major source of trading income for the Republic of Venice) that a guild was set up to protect them, and in 1605 it was decreed that they would have privileged social status and their daughters be permitted to marry into the Venetian wealth and nobility. Glass making, then, was a most respectable career path!

The glassmakers deservedly earned a reputation for the quality and artistry of the glass they created and the technologies they developed, such as in creating crystalline, enamelled, gold-threaded, multicoloured (millefiori) and milk glasses, and glass gemstones as sparkling as the real thing. So goes the Murano saying: Good tools are nice, but good hands are better. The artist is the key to the creative process, and the modern-day Murano glassmakers follow a rich tradition. The oldest  glass factory on Murano, for example, is Antica Vetreria Fratelli Toso, founded in 1854: take a look at the website for a stunning array of glass.

For me, the attraction of Murano glass is threefold:

  • The colours: Colour and Murano glass are synonymous. The vivacity of the colours is simply breathtaking.
  • The artistry of each piece: There is such a sense of history and of the hand-made in the pieces, and to own a Murano glass item is to own something that no one else on the planet owns, because each is unique in its finish.
  • The romance: The art and the décor items bring sparkle and colour and opulence to any environment, and the jewellery is beautiful. Did you know that the famous Venetian lover Giacomo Casanova (see my earlier post on him) once told a lover, Lucrezia Locheschi, to wear her precious Murano glass beads for a date with him – and only her beads?

In my research for The Echoes of Love, I couldn’t resist a visit to the island of Murano, and the Glass Museum there in the Palazzo Giustinian, which has glassware dating right back to the very beginnings of glass creation. Subsequently I wrote several beautiful pieces into the novel, from vases to lamps to exquisite chandeliers. Other pieces made with Murano glass include artworks, figurines, jewellery, paperweights, bowls and glass for mosaics (of vast interest to my heroine Venetia in The Echoes of Love, for she is a professional mosaic restorer). For a glimpse of some of the many beautiful items available, visit the Your Murano website.

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