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History of Murano Glass

20th Century - New Identity and the Art of Murano Glass

In the beginning of the 20th century, the master glassmakers of Murano were still enamored with reproducing classical styles and rediscovering ancient techniques, which was evident at Murano and Venice Exhibition of Choice Glass and Glass Objects staged in 1895 inside Murano City Hall. The rules of the exhibition dictated that the works showcased be reproductions of antique glassware. This important event was well attended by international collectors and glass admirers who greatly appreciated the works rooted in unique Murano tradition.

The best works of Murano artists were on display; many were a product of an important glassmaking technique called Murrino (mosaic), which was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century by Vittorio Zuffi while working for Fratelli Toso. This technique originally emerged in the 16th century in an effort to imitate ancient Roman vases. Murano’s famous firm Artisti Barovier received the Honorary Diploma and the Gold Medal. Other artists enjoying popularity in Murano at the time were Salviati, Testolini, and The Toso Brothers (Fratelli Toso).

The year 1895 was also the time of the first Venice Biennial exhibition where new works of art in avant-garde and art nouveau styles were showcased. This highlighted the gap between the modern trends gaining strength in Europe at the time and the works of Murano artisans who were deeply attached to the styles and methods of the past. This gap became even more obvious at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900, followed by Expositions of Decorative Arts in Turin in 1902 and Milan in 1906. Some Murano artisans, like Vittorio Toso Borella, became receptive to the new winds blowing on the art scene and started to produce works in art nouveaustyle. Though he originally got mixed reviews for the works he exhibited at Ca’ Pesaro in 1909, Vittorio went on to produce masterpieces that later became universally appreciated. Ca’ Pesaro, unlike Venice Biennial, became an exhibition embracing new artistic trends and showcasing many works in art vouveau style by young artists such as Gino Rossi, Arturo Martini, and Guido Marussig. One of the artists, Vittorio Zecchin, collaborated extensively with Artisti Barovier to create designs for their famous glassware.

In the 1920s, art nouveau slowly got replaced by more modern styles with simpler, cleaner, and more functional designs. Art deco took the center stage and with it came less decorated objects with softer lines and more focus on glassware as part of interior design, not a piece of art in and of itself. A new company, Vetri Soffiati Muranesi Capellin Venini, founded in 1921 under Vittorio Zecchin as its head designer became the champion of this style.

A little later, in the late 1920s to early 1930s, another important trend arose in Murano led by Maestri Vetrai Muranesi Capellin & Co. and Vetreria Artistica Barovier. The trend was glass animals, which remain popular even today. Other important innovations championed in 1930s and continued in early 1940s were production of glass statues of female nudes and classical figures of boxers and gods, engraving on glass, modern lighting fixtures, perfectly proportioned transparent glass tableware, and the invention of vetro sommerso ? a technique allowing to produce thick glassware with one color on the outside and another on the inside.

During World War II the industry did not thrive, but as soon as the war was over the glass masters of Murano returned to their art and created pieces deeply rooted in interior design trends of that time with focus on minimalism, functionality, and simplicity. To support these trends Murano artists and artisans returned to techniques of the past such as filigree, murrino, and lattimo. From that point onwards Murano saw continued exploration of styles and techniques striving to find a happy medium between the technical mastery and the outline, color, and decoration.

The resulting continuous innovation led to a rise in popularity and to multiple prizes at various international art exhibitions. Thanks to such prominent artists as Archimede Seguso, Ludovico and Laura De Santillana, Tobia Scarpa, Ercole Barovier, Fulvio Bianconi, Toni Zuccheri, Romano Chrivi, Giampaolo Martinuzzi, and Alfredo Barbini, Murano again became known as the glassblowing capital of the world. Murano now created the art trends as opposed to following them in the years past.

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