Murano, a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon, has been the homeland of master glassblowers for more than a thousand years.
For centuries Italian and international tourists have brought home at least a piece of Murano’s glass art when they visited Venice, and if you look into your Grandma’s ‘treasures’ you will probably find it, even if she is, or was, not Italian.
If you visit the most exclusive interior design stores in your town, or the best antique stores, you will also find at least one, Sculptures and vases of all shapes and colors, bowls, glassware, perfume bottles, glass jewelry, lamps and chandeliers, you name it. It is like eye-candy.
Ancient Romans were famous for glass art. It has been impossible to establish precisely when the Venice glassmaking industry first began, but one of the likely theories links its earliest production to the period when the Veneto region’s people moved to the estuary islands in the Venetian Lagoon after having lived in flourishing Roman coastal towns on the Adriatic sea (from Adria to Altino) and where they had learned Ancient Romans’ glassmaking techniques.
A document witnessed by a notary dating from 982 was signed by a certain Domenico who was a “fiolario”, that means he made blown glass, mainly producing bottles known as “fiole”.
Murano’s reputation as a center for glassmaking was born when the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and destruction of the city’s mostly wooden buildings, ordered glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano in 1291.
It is certain that from the last years of the 13th century until about the mid–14th century, the art of anamelling on glass in Murano (by Gregorio da Napoli, Bartolomeo da Zara, Donino) was well known in Europe.
The glassmakers had a statute drawn up in latin which laid down the regulations that controlled the activities of the guild. In 1441, the statute was rewritten in the vernacular spoken language, and it was renamed the “Mariegola dell’Arte dei Verieri de Muran”.
In the Mariegola (or “Matricola”) there were rules that covered all the phases of glassmaking – from production to selling, taxes and the relations between the owners, glass masters and other workers in the factory.
By the end of the 1500s, three thousand of Murano island's seven thousand inhabitants were involved in some way in the glassmaking industry.
The master glassmakers held a monopoly 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 centuries-old techniques.