Italian glassware has a long and romantic history. Legend has it that glassmaking originated in Italy in pre-Roman times when some sailors built a hot fire on the sand and discovered that the superheated sand turned into glass. Venice may have been at the center of Italian glassware manufacture as early as 450 AD.
By the time of Constantine, Italian glassware was an established guild with professional conduct standards and training through apprenticeships. Many of the special techniques of Italian glassware making, such as enameling, gilding, and filigrana had already been developed. Family “cookbooks” of glass recipes and techniques were handed down from father to son. The recipes have been added to and refined for centuries.
Glassmaking was a vibrant industry in Venice throughout Constantine’s reign. In the late 13th century, a decree was issued forbidding the establishment of new glasshouses within the city itself because of the number of fires started by glasshouses. Italian glassware manufacture moved to the Venetian island of Morano and is still centered around Morano today.
Italian glassware manufacture dominated the industry throughout the Renaissance and into the 17th century when other manufacturers began to enter the scene. Italian glassware was then, and still is, valued for its beauty, color, clarity, and delicacy.
Italian Glassware Today
Morano is still the center of Italian glassware manufacture and Venetian glass from Morano is still as beautiful and valuable as ever. It is primarily decorative, although the glasses, bowls, and other items are functional. It’s a little difficult to justify using soft drink glasses that cost $100 each for casual dining, though. They are objets d’art, not dinnerware.
Italian glassware is art, and the chandeliers, glasses, vases, jewelry, and ornamental pieces are all extraordinary. It is delicate and lovely, with pure colors, and each piece is unique because they are all hand-blown. Because Italian glassblowers are artists, not artisans, many pieces are frankly avant garde.
Glassware as pure art is a relatively new phenomenon, and Morano is right in the middle of it. The American glass artist Dale Chihuly learned much of his art in the Italian glassware house of Venini Fabrica. He also collaborated with Morano glass artist Lino Tagliapetra in creating a series of glass chandeliers that hang in various buildings in Venice.
Modern Italian glassware is as beautiful and desirable as it was in the Renaissance. It continues to set the standard for elegance and delicacy in glass art, in addition to setting the standard for modern glass art. Glass artists still salivate over the opportunity to train in Morano, the romantic center of glassmaking.