At our June meeting we hosted Elisa Sani, who was making a return visit to talk on “Venetian Glass”. Elisa is Assistant Curator of Ceramics and Glass at the V&A Museum, currently involved in the organisation of an exhibition of Italian Renaissance Ceramics.
Elisa’s talk covered the “Glass of the Renaissance Venice from 1450 to 1600”, explaining how fashion influenced glass manufacturing, with “renaissance” pictures showing glasses in the foreground, helping to substantiate the dating of the glass. Before this time, the closest thing to glass was rock crystal – crystal glass was invented in the 1450’s. Elisa explained how the island of Murano became the centre of the Venetian glass makers with the factory owners making it difficult for the workers to leave the area – hence the majority of Italian glass was made, and still is made, in Murano.
Often glass was decorated with coats of arms when commissioned by wealthy families who used them as fish bowls, wine coolers and for flower displays, as well as drinking vessels.
Elisa’s illustrations showed different glass designs – such as the “Calcedonio” glass which resembled agate and “Millefiori” glass which was much more beautiful than today’s imitations. From 1550 to 1600 the change of fashion brought a delicacy and intricacy to the glass – clear and transparent and more extravagant. “Vetro a Filigrana” was another design during the period when the decoration of glass resembled the lace made on the neighbouring island of Burano. A comparison was drawn referring to Venetian glass as “Haute Couture” and other makers as “Prêt-à-Porter”!
Elisa concluded by examining some of the pieces of glass brought in by members.