Murano Glass History Overview

 By: Grojan Fabiola
Mainly defined by its inimitable beauty and flawless purity, the intriguing and fascinating material of Murano glass stands out as a product of centuries of innovation and epitomizes Italy's value for fine art, one of the reasons why the country has always been an important centre for culture. Originating in Middle-Eastern countries like Syria, Egypt and Palestine, the craft of glassmaking was later introduced to the province of Venice and many countries on the European continent. In the hands of talented Venetian artisans, this newfound craft of the glass bloomed into a magnificent form of art that would dazzle and win over the entire world with its beauty.

Although to the Romans glass was not a completely new material, it is the technology of blowing the glass acquired from the Middle-Eastern peoples which allowed them to set the foundations for Venetian glassmaking. Because Venice was an overcrowded city by the 9th century, with many buildings built exclusively of wood, glassmakers were soon forced to move onto Murano, a small island not far from the peninsular coast.

Some historians perceive this exile as a form of strategic control, considering it was far easier for the authorities to pull the strings behind the craft of the glass once it was contained in a small region isolated from the world. With glassmaking under strict regulations and close monitoring by government authorities, the craft grew steadily into a profitable industry and the secrets of the trade never reached the ears of other competing countries.

The large concentration of skilled artisans in such a small area greatly contributed to the development and refinement of the craft of Murano glass, and facilitated the exchange of creative ideas. Murano glassmaking was slowly evolving into something very big, which would reach its peak potential between the 15th and 16th centuries, when the glassware made on the Isle of Murano closely rivaled the popular Venetian mirrors and clear glass range of products in terms of beauty and artistry. In fact, Murano had become so important and popular that it would receive constant visits from the world's prominent figures such as kings, popes and elite merchants, drawn in by what were then considered the most fashionable range of handmade glass products and the pinnacle of glassmaking technology.

After a bicentennial dominance over other powerful competing markets, Murano glassmaking would see a sensible decline during the 18th century, when the country's political downfall also had a pronounced impact upon the craft of the glass. Glassmaking could no longer be controlled efficiently and the country's economical instability led to the closing of many of the work studios, leaving a large number of artisans unemployed. For an already struggling province of Venice, the French and Austrian invasions during the latter part of the century came as the final nail in the coffin for its trade of glassmaking, and with no helping hand to cling on to, the craft of Murano glass sank along with it.

However, just like a phoenix rising from its ashes, Murano glassmaking was revived by the dawn of the 19th century, when the foreign occupation was lifted and Italy was beginning its economical and industrial recovery. In the coming decades, the traditional art of Murano glassmaking would be lifted to the peaks of its former glory and beyond, expanding the ramifications of its world-famous glass industry and introducing new innovative techniques to the trade. This period of innovation and prosperity carries on today, with the line of fine art jewelry now being brought into the spotlight.
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