The tiny island of Murano, in the Venetian lagoon, is virtually synonymous with Italian glass and home to many major Italian glassworks. In the 13th century, many glassworks on the Venetian mainland were forced to relocate to Murano to protect the city from the risk of fire from the glass furniture. Great secrecy surrounded the Venetian supremacy in glassmaking and members of the city's glassmaking guild were forbidden to travel or divulge their secrets. From about the mid-15th century through to the 17th century, Venice became the leading glassmaking center of the world, as the virtuoso Muranese glass-blowers produced glass of matchless quality.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Venetian star waned, as the new lead crystal glass, well suited for cutting and engraving, came to forge. By the beginning of the 20th century, production in the Murano glassworks was largely confined to glass in conservative, historical styles. However as the century progressed, Italian glassmakers sought the help of artists, architects, and sculptors to revive many of the traditional Venetian decorating techniques and bring them once more to the forefront of glass design.
Strong family traditions of glassmaking had produced a highly skilled workforce, whose specialty remained hot techniques such as blown glass and lampworking, almost to the exclusion of cold techniques such as cutting and engraving. This expertise, combined with a predilection for bright colors, original forms, and an individualistic approach to life and design created the exuberant, colorful, and stylish Murano glass.
by Marina Chernyak