Italian Blown Glass

— Exotic and ancient vessels made of glass.

Roman art from the 1st and 2nd century.

Ever since watching Borgia a couple years back, I’ve been obsessed with Italian chalices. I don’t often drink wine but I want to hold my drink in a decorated glass, even if it is just water.

Last week I came across Italian Blow Glass: From Ancient Rome to Venice. Written in 1960, the book broadly covers the history of the Italian glass industry. Author G. Mariacher tells the story of the rise and fall of glass manufacturing in Murano, Italy.

Venetian compote jar from the late 16th century. A chalice made in the Venetian style by a Florentine workshop, 17th century.

Although the island had a monopoly on glass, the regional industry got lazy in improving the quality. Overtime, other regions, including Germany, England and Holland, developed their own glass making traditions. These outside glassmakers innovated on the material and came up with superior forms of glass. Over time, there was less and less demand for Murano glass.

Venetian milk glass from the 16th century.

A Venetian crystal goblet from the 16th century. Venetian white net glass from the early 16th century. Murano, Museo Vetrario.

Late 17th century Venetian mirror and Venetian white net-glass from the mid 16th century.

Muranese objects made from vitreous paste, 18th century.

I love the unique shapes that came out of the Venice region. The book is filled with examples from the 16th to 18th century. In addition to the range of shapes, the book also brought my attention to something else. Not everything old is of lasting quality. Although the glass vessels are old, they’re not made as lasting as the glass today.

It’s an assumption I hadn’t questioned much: older is better. But now I see that it’s not necessarily the case.

All images from Italian Blown Glass: From Ancient Rome to Venice, 1960.



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