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Art of Glass

Posted on April 21, 2024 by Jonah Krochmal

Trial-and-error led to among the largest industries up to now. The creation of glass continually evolved with additions of limestone, lead oxide and boric acid. Metals like cobalt, copper, manganese, silver and gold would change the consistency, clarity, colour weight and strength of glass.

The Venetians were the first ever to become world leaders in the manufacture of glass. The Crusades and the conquest of Constantinople in 1204 opened just how for extensive trade practices through the entire Eastern Mediterranean and in a variety of Islamic territories. The effect was an exchange of cultures - which allowed the Venetians to look at the practices of the glass producers in these once foreign lands.

More than Conquerors

However, the Venetians were those that took the art of glassmaking to some other level with the addition of minerals and pebbles to the glass silica. 'Oxides' were also put into the silica, developing a splendid multi-coloured selection of glassware. The Venetians also received accolades for perfecting clear glass referred to as "cristallo." Nowhere was the art of glass more evident than on the hawaiian islands of Murano.

Murano is really a band of islands lying on the edge of the Adriatic Sea in the lagoon of Venice, about 3,000 meters north of the bigger band of islands comprising the town of Venice. This is the glass centre of the Venetian industry, and glassmakers had exactly the same status as "royalty," and had privileges denied to ordinary citizens; however in exchange for such titles and privileges, the federal government virtually imprisoned them so that they can protect the secrets of the glass trade. If one of these brilliant artisans tried to leave the island to apply their craft elsewhere, these were condemned to death for committing treason.

The Republic of Venice put this mandate into effect to be able to isolate the master glassblowers, to keep control and monopolize the of glassmaking. There is an interval in Venetian history once the glasshouses supposedly caught fire and the Venetian authorities moved all of the glasshouses to the island of Murano. If the fires were rumour or fact; by moving all production to Murano, the Venetians not merely protected Venice from the hazards of fire, but additionally insured government regulation and State protection, ensuring no competition from abroad. Because of this, Murano glassmaking became the best source for fine glass in Europe and a significant way to obtain trading income for the Republic of Venice.

The glass bits of this era were ornate and considered luxury items. Through this ostentation, a strain of utilitarian design developed and mirrors began to appear which provided a higher revenue turnover. Artisans competed amongst themselves, constantly developing more technical and intricate glassmaking techniques and continually pushing the boundaries of thought, images, use, and opinion.

Unlike any material, glass envelopes the mystical qualities of color, hue, and light. Old world artisans have introduced us to glass that delights our senses with endless colour schemes, light refractions, and artistic designs.