Follow us on Social



How a myth is created

How a myth is created

The history of Venetian glass from fancy goods to lighting

The genesis of Murano glass chandeliers is a story with names and dates. In the beginning there was the cesendello. And there was light... again. First mentioned in a Paduan document of 1374 and in papers from Murano dating back to 1444, this long-shaped hanging lamp was a must-have for churches and houses from the Middle Ages up to the 18th century. Until chandeliers cropped up.

The crisis of Venetian glass manufacturing...

The turning point, though, is represented by a crisis. Just as it was for many Italian - but not only - enterprises after 2008. The most serious crisis Venetian glass industry had to face broke out in the 18th century, when the production of Bohemian and English crystals reached the height of its success. Both kinds of glasses were created during the 1670s, but neither of them is suited to the typically Venetian hot-glass-working techniques. As far as brightness and fineness are concerned, anyway, they are both as good as Murano glass.

... And the recovery thanks to Giuseppe Briati's inventions

Just as Ventian glass-working techniques had spread abroad, mainly thanks to the various translations of The Art of Glass by Antonio Neri, Murano's glass workers do their best to reproduce the popular Bohemian and English crystals. Almost nobody succeeds. Apart from Giuseppe Briati (1686-1772) who, thanks to his collaboration with Bohemian glass workers, manages to create a bright and strong crystal, which can compete with its foreign rivals. The new Bohemian-style crystal, though, is different from its ancestors, since it can be used in hot-glass-working processes.

And it's this kind of glass that serves his revolution, which will help Venetian glass manufacturers recover from the crisis. Briati's indeed the first to create Venetian glass chandeliers, the ciocche, which are famous even now. Inspired by Bohemian crystal chandeliers, the ciocche are made up of a metal framework, covered by blown-glass tubular elements and enriched with flowers, leaves and fruits, which can be either coloured or not.

Vetreria Vistosi and Venetian glass chandeliers: tradition and innovation

But the story's not over, yet: Briati's remarkable change will be picked up by Vetreria Vistosi after the Second World War. In 1945, Guglielmo Vistosi, the heir of a family which had long since abandoned the Guild, opens a new glasshouse in Murano.

The out-and-out change, though, corresponds to the idea of introducing a "name" in glass, brought forth in 1960. Such an idea must at first face the glassmasters' opposition: for centuries they had been the unquestioned protagonists of glass working, and therefore do not accept the new project of producing works studied by designers that easily. Even now this story and the collaboration with designers such as Gae Aulenti, Angelo Mangiarotti and Vico Magistretti - just to name a few - go on. The success of the revolutionary connection between the tradition of Venetian glass and projects by designers is thus proved. And Briati's invention is taken to the next level.

TAGS: murano-glass

Other photos