The processing of Murano artistic glass.

Venice in pre-Roman times represented in the area of the Upper Adriatic Sea, the point of arrival of all maritime exchanges with the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean. Among all the goods that came from the East, a representative role was played by glass. As evidence of this through excavations carried out for the reclamation of historic buildings, were found housing structures of the Roman era, so officially it is thought that the city of Venice was built by refugees from Roman cities to find refuge from the barbarians. From this we can 'deduce that the art of Venetian glass comes directly from the Roman Upper Adriatic and however the real development took place in the Middle Ages where the art and craftsmanship were further enhanced. Venetian glassmakers began to practice this art inheriting the use of sodium glass from the Orient. This composition is suitable for hot working and in this they distinguished themselves for their aesthetic taste and the use of multiple colors. The aesthetic ability for Venetians is based on the intuition that glass is an extremely malleable material and therefore suitable to be blown and shaped in the incandescent state but able to maintain the same chromatic characteristics even in the finished product. This differs from the Nordic tradition which maintains that glass is the equivalent of hard stone and therefore the skill is in giving value to objects through cutting. The first documents that reach us about the Venetian glass art date back to the year 982 A.D., the year in which the name of a glass artisan in Venice appears, therefore we can suppose that this art, still active, is more than millenary all over the world. After 982 there was confirmation of the existence of other Venetian glassmakers, but in the 13th century the predominance was clearly that of the Murano artisans. This was due to the fact that the glassworks were naturally concentrated on the island of Murano, so much so that in 1291 the State established the destruction of glassworks built in Venice, attributing their historical origin to Murano, so much so that they produced their activity uninterruptedly[1].

It is believed that glassmaking originated in Murano in the 8th century, with considerable Asian and Arab influences, since Venice was an important commercial port. Murano's fame as a center for glassmaking began when the Republic of Venice, in order to prevent the burning of the city's buildings (at the time largely built of wood), ordered the glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano in 1291.
Contrary to other countries where glassworks were located in the production sites of raw materials or fuel, Venice and Murano have always imported all the materials such as vitrifying silicon, soda ash and others, from distant places, including wood, fuel until the last century, which arrived from the Istrian and Dalmatian coasts. The real quality of the Island of Murano, however, was the man with his experience, who over time perfected the styles, quality and skill in shaping the glowing glass. These glass artists have always been contacted since the Renaissance to bring their skills to the courts and workshops, so much so that they became masters. In fact, for this reason, in Murano a glass school was set up to initiate young people into this craft, even if the experience in the glassworks remained unique. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Murano glass was in demand by the highest social classes in Europe, starting with the invention of crystal in about 1450; in fact, crystal is a quality of glass that differs and gives the glass its own special characteristics due to the same silicon base but with a higher percentage of lead oxide (24%)[2], so the products created were particularly refined to meet the demands of extremely wealthy customers. In the Baroque period, the research was transformed through the execution of objects such as lattimi, which are compositions based on silicates, tin and lead with a milky white appearance from which the etymology[3], which were perfectly matched to the furniture of the Venetian eighteenth century even in the decadent era of the Republic of Venice. After the end of the Republic of San Marco in 1797, the rebirth of glass craftsmanship took place in the second half of the 19th century, and the glassworks which were born developed techniques which are still in use today and which have given rise to contemporary and designer glassworks[4].

The category of Murano glassmakers soon became the most prominent on the island: in fact, from the fourteenth century the glassmakers were authorized to carry swords, enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the Venetian state and their daughters were allowed to marry into the wealthiest families in Venice. However, glassmakers were never allowed to leave the Republic. Many artisans took the risk of setting up their furnaces in the surrounding cities or in distant countries such as England and the Netherlands. At the end of the 16th century, three thousand people out of the seven thousand inhabitants of the island of Murano were involved in some way in the glass industry. For several centuries, Murano glassmakers maintained a monopoly on the quality of glass, the development or refinement of techniques, including those of crystalline glass, enameled glass, glass with gold threads (avventurina), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones in glass. Today, Murano's artisans are still employing these centuries-old techniques, in everything from contemporary glass art to Murano glass figurines to chandeliers and wine stoppers. Today, Murano is home to a vast number of factories and studios-workshops of individual artists who create all manner of glass objects for both mass marketing and original sculpture.