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Glass & Glass-Making
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VENETIAN glass-making was highly developed in the thirteenth century. The Venetians made beautiful articles in the "style of Damascus"-- in other words, the enameled ware of the Saracens-- besides other kinds. So profitable was the industry that in 1275 laws were made prohibiting the exportation of sand and
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 groups:
    (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became too thin to bear the heat of the enameling furnace without losing their shape; so enameling was gradually superceded by painting in oil colors under the surface.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.
    (4) Latticinio, 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.