other substances used in making glass, and also the fragments of broken
glass. Severe regulations in Venice caused the glass-workers to move
in a body to the neighboring island of Murano in 1690.
From that date onward Venetian glass became famous. It was not only
eagerly bought throughout Europe, but found its was as far as China.
At the end of the fifteenth and at the beginning
of the sixteenth centuries, when the classical designs of the Renaissance
influenced every industry, Murano craftsmen gave up Gothic forms and
decorations, and also the Oriental shapes and ornamentation for vases
and cups, to follow the styles of ancient Greece and Rome.
The artists of Murano (they were more than
artisans) studied all the specimens they could find, and analyzed
fragments of old broken pieces; and, finally, they succeeded in
reproducing everything that ancient Rome had made. To this period
belong all those delicate wine glasses and glasses of the
tazza form (like modern champagne glasses),
standing-bowls, bottles and "fantasies," whose elegant forms and airy
lightness bring delight to all that have a true feeling for beauty.
Venetian, or Murano, glass, falls into several
(1) Vessels of colorless and transparent
glass, or glass of a single color, that is to say, glass
colored with metallic oxides before being worked into shapes. Drinking
glasses of clear white glass are often decorated with colored glass
laid on in threads externally, or forming part of the ornaments attached
to the stems.
(2) Gilt and enameled glass. This form
of decoration is used on both colored and colorless glass. In the
sixteenth century, when massive forms gave place to lighter and more
elegant ones, drinking glasses became too thin to bear the heat of the
enameling furnace without losing their shape; so enameling was gradually
superceded by painting in oil colors under the surface.
(3) Crackled Glass. The frosted, or
crackled, glass dates from the sixteenth century. To produce it, the
glass-blower plunged the hot bubble at the end of his tube into cold
water before working it into the desired shape; or he rolled the hot
bulb on powdered glass, which adhered to it, and then re-heated his bulb
and worked it into the form desired.
Lattimo, or Lattisuol,
the milk-white opaque glass, produced by the
introduction of oxide of tin, also dates from the
sixteenth century. This was also used to form threads for decoration.
(5) Vitro di trina,
lace or filigree glass, one
of the loveliest of all Murano products, was inspired by ancient Roman
models; but it surpasses in beauty and finish all fragments that have come
down to us. This glass looks like candy, and is made most ingeniously by
the arrangement of canes, or sticks, of glass and air-bubbles, that are
reheated and shaped, reheated and shaped, again and again. Many varieties
contain fine threads of glass, colored, or milk-white, crossed and twisted
in very intricate patterns. An extraordinary amount of dexterity was required
to produce articles so minute and delicate, and yet to exact and regular.
(6) Millefiori, or
"star-work," is a mosaic of glass, made of glass
lozenges cut from the ends of colored filigree canes and arranged in regular
patterns encased in transparent glass. Paper weight are still made of this
material, which has a kaleidoscopic appearance. When the mass is reheated,
any shape can be formed by the glass-blower.
(7) Variegated, or marble opaque, is called by
the Venetians calcedonio, the
opalescence being contributed, it is supposed, by
phosphate of lime, or bone
ash. The most common variety is a mixture of green and purple, which
appears red by transmitted light. The pale blue appears orange, or yellow.
This glass is made to imitate chalcedony (whence its
name), jasper, lapis lazuli
and tortoise shell.
Aventurine, which belongs to this group, was
very difficult to make. Its color is a transparent yellow, into which are
fused little particles of copper to imitate "goldstone."
(8) Splashed glass
was decorated with splashes of enamel scattered over the hot bulb bubble,
which was re-heated and shaped.
(9) Painted Glass
was made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the decorations
being landscapes, classical figures, cupids, et cetera.
(10) Engraved Glass.
The thinness of Venetian glass made it unsuitable for engraving; but
occasionally Venetians drew delicate designs on their glass with a diamond.
In the eighteenth century, when they had to compete with the new Bohemian
glass, the Venetians tried deep engraving. Cutting with the wheel they
also tried when there was a demand for "cut glass" of the English style.