Friday, October 1, 2010
It is believed that glassmaking in Murano originated from 9th century Rome, with significant Asian and Muslim influences, as Venice was a major trading port. Murano’s reputation as a centre for glassmaking was born when the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and destruction to the city’s mostly wooden buildings, ordered glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano in 1291. Murano glass is still interwoven with Venetian glass.
Murano's glassmakers were soon the island’s most prominent citizens. By the 14th century, glassmakers were allowed to wear swords, enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the Venetian state and found their daughters married into Venice’s most affluent families. However glassmakers were not allowed to leave the Republic. Many craftsmen took this risk and set up glass furnaces in surrounding cities and as far afield as England and the Netherlands.
By the end of the 16th century, three thousand of Murano island's seven thousand inhabitants were involved in some way in the glassmaking industry.
Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enamelled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicoloured glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano are still employing these century-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass figurines to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.
Today, Murano is home to a vast number of factories and a few individual artist studios making all manner of glass objects from mass marketed stemware to original sculpture. The Museo Vetrario or Glass Museum in the Palazzo Giustinian, which holds displays on the history of glassmaking as well as glass samples ranging from Egyptian times through the present day.
Murano Glass was produced in great quantities in the 1950s and 1960s for export and for tourists [excerpted from Wikipedia]