The History of Murano vases

Published: 30th March 2011
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When we talk about vases, we have in mind a container to put flowers in. But, through history, vases were used to hold a variety of things: from perfume and oil to the ashes of pharaohs. Although made from a range of different materials, the production of vases bloomed at the invention of glass.

The oldest fragments of glass vases were found in Mesopotamia almost four thousand years ago. But, the oldest intact glass vase that survived the time is a glass goblet found in the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III, who lived between 1504 and 1450 B.C. It is currently displayed at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

For most of their history, glass vases were created in order to be used for some practical purpose. Since glass was very costly, only very rich owned glass vases, and although they were used to store various materials, they were often very richly decorated. It is not until the peak of glass production in Murano, during the Renaissance, that vases were made as art objects and their usefulness was secondary to their esthetic value. Murano vases, produced by Murano glass artisans became highly sought-after decorative objects and are now placed in many museums around the world.

It is interesting to follow the changes in the forms of murano vases coming from the Murano glass houses. Although forms and colors were greatly dictated by the contemporary fashions and styles, these forms were even more influenced by techniques in glass-work that were invented by various Murano glass artisans.

The oldest and even today the most popular glass technique for making murano vases is millefiori (thousand flowers.) This ancient technique has been invented in Egypt between the third and the first century B.C, but Murano artists made it into a fine art and many breathtakingly beautiful vases came out of their workshops. Of all types of Murano vases, millefiori vases are still the most popular and sought-after.

Invention of 'cristallo', first completely colorless glass by Venetian glass master Angelo Barovier in 1450 opened the door for the creation of some of the most elegant vases that came from Murano furnaces. They were decorated mostly by manual etching.

"Lattimo" is another 15th century glass forming technique that produced extremely beautiful murano vases. This kind of glass looked like fine china that was at that time being imported from Japan and became very sought-after by the rich Europeans.

In the sixteenth century, the most popular technique for creating vases was 'filigrana". Glass was formed by white rods with inside threads of colorful or golden glass. The threads can form a grid ('reticello") or spirals ("retorti").

The sixteenth century was truly the golden era of Murano glass making. Another technique that was invented in Murano at that time that produced some spectacular murano vases was "incalmo", fusing of glass of two different colors. This technique is extremely popular among contemporary glass artists and is now used to make vases and other objects of very diverse shapes and forms.

From the 16th to the 18th centuries, the most popular glass making technique for making art objects, particularly vases, was "ghiaccio" (Italian for ice.)

Besides 'millefiori', "sommerso" (submerged) is today the second most popular technique for making a murano vase. This technique, invented in 1930, shows that Murano continued to be the heart of glass art even in the 20th century, and that Murano artists are still capable of coming up with new ways of forming glass in always more interesting and beautiful ways. "Sommerso" murano vase is made of two colors, in which one color is layered over another and are created in vivid colors like cobalt and ruby red. They are highly sought-after as decorative objects all over the world.

Murano Vases | Murano Vase and Murano Glass Jewelry imported from Venice, Italy.

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