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Chihuly Over Venice: Dale Chihuly’s Shining Legacy

Chihuly Over Venice: Dale Chihuly’s Shining Legacy

1996 | Tina Oldknow
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I was dreaming that wouldn’t it be great to take the Chandeliers to Venice where the tradition of chandeliers comes from? I thought I would pick countries with great glass traditions [in different parts of the world]...and make [Chandeliers] in each of those countries. [I decided]...I would go [to glassworks in Finland, Ireland, and Mexico]...with no preconceived ideas. The results would be impossible to predict and each Chandelier [blow]...would be unlike any other. We would break down the cultural barriers and dispel the secrets that have so long restricted and insulated the great glasshouses. In the end, the Chandeliers, made from thousands of individual parts and representing the work of hundreds of glassblowers, would be sent to Venice —the Wizard of the Sea—the most mysterious and secret city of all. -Dale Chihuly1

In September 1996, Dale Chihuly successfully concluded his monumental project, Chihuly Over Venice, with the installation of fourteen immense glass Chandeliers throughout the fabled city of Venice. Some Chandeliers were placed in architectural spaces, but the majority appeared in and around Venice's celebrated canals. Composed of hundreds of organically-shaped elements, ranging from elaborate curls, to cones, to spheres, the brilliantly-colored and crystal-clear Chandeliers were supported on metal structures that enabled the heavy and massive works to be installed at a variety of sites such as outdoor gardens, terraces, bridges, loggias, courtyards, over cisterns, and indoor locations. Some Chandeliers, freed from their supports, floated in water. Shining by day throughout the city, the Chandeliers came alive at night, emanating light from within to become fantastic and magical apparitions, glowing with the evanescent beauty and heroic pathos that is the hallmark of Chihuly’s art.

Chihuly Over Venice is, first and above all, a highly important project and major artistic statement by a mature contemporary artist that will undoubtedly remain as one of the highlights of a remarkable and prolific career. But Chihuly Over Venice is also a meaningful tribute to the medium of glass, to its history and development in Venice, and to its future as a material capable of as great a scale, complexity, and significance for sculpture as it has become for architecture.

A pioneer of the American studio glass movement, Dale Chihuly has championed the use of glass as a vehicle for sculpture. He has successfully straddled the tidal rift between craft and fine art not by abandoning craft, but by exploiting and developing its most identifiable form which is the vessel. During his many years as a teacher, Chihuly made a point of gathering artists from all media to work with him and with the material, and he endeavored to introduce new points of view and infuse new energy into the process of making. He was the founding artistic director of Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State, recognized around the world today as the premier place to explore the artistic possibilities of glass, and he is proud of this accomplishment in the field of education, which is only one of a long list of artistic achievements.

The sharing of ancient traditions made a profound impact on the American studio glass movement, a debt which Chihuly and other glass artists have always gratefully acknowledged.

In the early years of the American studio glass movement, Chihuly, who received a Fulbright fellowship in 1968 to work at the distinguished Venetian firm of Venini Glass, recognized the need for American artists working in glass to gain knowledge of the historical traditions of the craft —to learn the techniques of working glass as practiced by the greatest glass masters. With the help of Seattle artist Benjamin Moore, who had also worked at Venini, Chihuly brought two Venetian glass masters from Murano to teach at Pilchuck Glass School: first, Checcho Ongaro, in 1978, and then Lino Tagliapietra, in 1979, who became a close friend and colleague. While the Muranese masters had no difficulty demonstrating their technical bravura, teaching was another matter. Venetian glass techniques and methods traditionally had been closely guarded since glass was first made in Venice, and penetrating that wall of silence was no easy feat. Ongaro found, ultimately, that he was not interested in teaching. Tagliapietra, on the other hand, had a more open outlook and curious mind. He was as interested in the Americans and their unusual attitudes toward glass as they were in learning from him. The sharing of ancient traditions by Venetian and other European masters made a profound impact on the American studio glass movement, a debt which Chihuly and other glass artists have always gratefully acknowledged.

Chihuly has always recognized his own debt to Venice and to the inspiration he has derived from the city itself, as well as its glassmaking traditions. Chihuly Over Venice was, in one sense, Chihuly’s reply to tradition and his thanks to an important mentor. It was also a way of bringing something to Venice that its glass community could delight in as much as the American glass community has been delighted by Venice. The history of glass in Venice, especially around the time of its greatest achievement during the Renaissance, is a fascinating topic for anyone interested in glass. And as a historian, I believe that to truly understand glass now—to recognize a history in the making— we have to understand glass then.

The Founding of Venice

The estuaries of three virile rivers first formed the Venetian lagoon, rushing down from the Alps with their sediments of sand, shale and mud...For many remained obscure and anonymous, on the edge of Pax Romana. Around its perimeter, celebrated cities flourished. . . but the lagoon itself stood aside from history, shrouded in myth and malaria. Jan Morris2

During the first century B.C., the region called Venetia by the Romans embraced an administrative territory covering most of what we recognize today as northern Italy; specifically, the alpine provinces of Friuli and Trentino and, of course, the Veneto, which claims the Italian cities of Verona, Vicenza, and Padua along with Venice itself. The names “Venetia,” “Veneto,” and “Venezia” are derived from the pre-Roman, indigenous populace who called themselves the Veneti. In Roman times, the great lagoon, then called the sette mare (seven seas), extended from the northern town of Aquileia, situated at the crown of the Adriatic Sea, south to Ravenna. The border of the great lagoon was dotted with prosperous Roman cities such as Aquileia, Concordia, Oderzo, Eraclea, Adria, and Ravenna. It was the citizens of these towns who would become the first families of Venice.

Throughout the fifth century A.D. the western Roman Empire was assaulted by waves of invading Germanic tribes coming out of northern Europe. Roman officials in far-off Constantinople were already losing their grip on an empire that was impossibly large and increasingly bureaucratic: the emperor Constantine’s efforts to consolidate Rome’s rebellious eastern territories by moving the capitol there in 330 had created only a temporarily unified Empire. Imperial Roman authority was repeatedly challenged in the west by barbarians, or non-Romans, many of whom had been inducted into Roman armies in gradually increasing numbers, and who had acquired significant military influence.

During one of the barbarian invasions of Italy in 452, Attila and his Hun armies cut a swath of destruction along the Adriatic coast, stopping at Ravenna and only threatening Rome (which would finally succumb to barbarian rule some 25 years later). It was during this Hun invasion that the empty islands of the Venetian lagoon were first colonized.3 Roman citizens from all over the Veneto fled from the Huns in boats, finding shelter on islands such as Caorle (or Caprule), Torcello, and Malamocco (or Metamauco). “Today, nothing but the name remains of some of these islands; of others, even the name is lost,” writes Italian historian, Guiseppe Mozzati. “For a long time, the people were troubled by the instability of their situation and they ended up by calling the plain from which they had come Terraferma.”4

The lagoon dwellers were joined on their marine outpost by a second large influx of population from Terraferma during the Lombard invasion of the Veneto in 568, and it is generally accepted that what we know as Venice was founded at that time. The city’s fledging government first resided at Caorle, then Torcello, and then Malamocco, gradually distancing itself from the contested and repeatedly raided Veneto. The first Doge of Venice (from the Latin dux, meaning “leader”) was elected around 700 while Venice was still considered part of the Byzantine Empire and governed by the Byzantine exarchate at Ravenna. By the time of the exarchate’s death in 751, who was the last of the Byzantines in Italy, Venice was essentially independent although Venetia remained under Byzantine control.5

In 810, Byzantine armies defended Venetia from marauding Franks. Venice, in particular, was threatened by the attack and it was decided at this time to move the Doge and his government from Malamocco, which was felt to be too exposed, to a more distant location called Rivoalto. The collection of islands known as Rivoalto became what we recognize today as the city of Venice and the original name of Rivoalto, although shortened, has stayed with the city at its commercial heart: the Rialto markets. The move from Malamocco was a fortunate one: some 200 years or so later (the exact date is not known) the island disappeared into the sea, possibly submerged by an earthquake-generated tidal wave, and it remains lost to this day.6

The first doge’s palace (Palazzo Ducale) was constructed on Rivoalto: early records describe it as a fortress surrounded by a deep moat. The Piazzetta, adjacent to the Piazza of San Marco and fronting the doge’s palace, served as the city’s main harbor. The early Venetians were very concerned about security and were undoubtedly tired of moving. It is recorded that every night, large wooden beams and iron chains were stretched between two towers where the Grand Canal meets the Rio delle Torricelle, blocking the port and the entrance to the Grand Canal from any enemy ships that might try to force their way into the sleeping city.7

In the meantime, the Venetians continued to establish themselves on Rivoalto, acquiring the holy relics of St. Mark to validate their new republic in 828.8 They built their city on and between a patchwork of small islands, supported by a forest of inverted pine stakes driven into the lagoon’s hard clay floor. “In the early days, the Venetians made rough roads in their islands and rode about on mules and horses,” notes travel writer Jan Morris. “But presently they evolved the system of canals, based on existing water channels and rivulets.”9 Venice, in its prime, could boast of fine architecture as well as an advanced and efficient urban transportation system. Its early wooden houses were gradually replaced with moisture-resistant stone from quarries at Istria on the Adriatic (in Yugoslavia) or imported from the Middle Eastern coastal regions of the Mediterranean known as the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan). “Venice rose from the sea,” writes Guiseppe Mozzati, “an airy monument of frozen foam set on the islands of Rivoalto.”10 Or, as the English traveler and poet Samuel Rogers would describe Venice in 1822:11

There is a glorious City in the Sea. The Sea is in the broad, the narrow streets, Ebbing and flowing; and the salt sea-weed Clings to the marble of her palaces.

Glassmaking in Early Venice

One popular 19th-century theory was that the people of Aquileia...brought the craft of glassmaking to Venice during the barbarian invasions. But now, scholars think it was to the East that they turned: to Byzantium and Islam...but mainly to the Byzantine glasshouses of Corinth [in Greece.] Attila Dorigato12

Aquileia was well-known in Roman times for the wares produced by its glassblowers, a large collection of which is on display today in the city’s archaeological museum, and it seems reasonable to assume that glassmaking was practiced in Venetia throughout Roman times. But between the last Aquileia glassworks in the 4th/5th century and the first archaeological evidence for glassmaking on the islands of the Venetian lagoon, “there are two centuries,” notes glass historian Rosa Barovier Mentasti, “of silence.”13

An important location in the early history of Venice, Torcello is the site of the lagoon’s oldest building, a Byzantine cathedral founded in 639. It was also, as it turned out, the site of Venice’s first glasshouse.

In 1961 and 1962, excavations funded by the Cini Foundation in Venice were undertaken on Torcello, a nearly abandoned island in the northern lagoon about two and a half hours by vaporetto (waterbus) from Venice. An important location in the early history of Venice, Torcello is the site of the lagoon’s oldest building, a Byzantine cathedral founded in 639. It was also, as it turned out, the site of Venice’s first glasshouse. In archaeological strata dating between about 600 to 650, excavators unearthed the remains of glass furnaces, vessel fragments, and numerous mosaic tesserae. This discovery constituted a new milestone in the history of glass, proving that glassmaking had occurred in the Venetian lagoon nearly 350 years earlier than previously thought.14 The Byzantine context of the Torcello glassworks, their proximity in date to the church, and the fact that mosaic tesserae were being made there, lends further credence to the theory that the earliest glassmakers in Venice claimed the glassmaking traditions of Byzantium, rather than Roman Aquileia, as their own.

It is not until 982 that the first written record about glass appears in Venice, in the form of an acknowledgment of a donation to the church of San Giorgio, which is situated on the small island of San Giorgio Maggiore across the water from the Piazzetta and San Marco. The donor’s name was Dominicus who, according to the custom of the time, was not identified by a surname but by his profession: fiolarius, or bottle-maker. The term fiolarius does not appear again until 100 years later, when there are a couple of references: a Petrus fiolarius in 1083, and a Petrus Flabinicus fiolarius in 1090.15 By this time—the end of the 11th century—Venice was already well on its way to becoming an important urban center. The great basilica of San Marco was under construction (its glass mosaics were installed in 1078) and trade had been established with Syrian and Egyptian cities famous for their glass traditions. The glass mosaics for San Marco may have been imported, but they may also have been made locally.16

During the reign of Doge Sebastiano Ziani (1172 –1178), the republic of Venice underwent important political and physical changes. A dedicated leader and city planner, Ziani instituted a reconfiguration of the city’s layout, dividing Venice into its six quarters (sestieri) of Cannareggio, San Polo, Santa Croce, Castello, Dorsoduro, and San Marco, as well as supervising the building of the Rialto Bridge and the rebuilding the doge’s palace, which involved filling in its moats as well as the Rio Batari canal so that the Piazza of San Marco could be enlarged. Ziani also oversaw the installation of the twin columns in the Piazzetta surmounted by sculptures of the city’s two patron saints, St. Theodore and St. Mark, the latter represented by the quintessential symbol of Venice: the winged lion of St. Mark. In 1171–1172 the Great Council was created, a significant moment in Venice’s political history, and the islands of Murano were incorporated into the Venetian Republic.17

The Venetian Glass Industry in the 13th and 14th Centuries

Indeed, the history of glass was dramatically transformed during the Italian Renaissance from the story of a humble utilitarian craft to a sophisticated courtly art. Hugh Tait18

During the 13th century, literary references to the glassmaking industry increase, enabling a larger historical picture of glass to emerge. A varied output of glass was being produced by 1268, as attested by the first public mention of glassmakers, or fiolarii, in a chronicle written by Martino da Canale. This chronicle described the inaugural festivities that took place in Venice for the new doge, Lorenzo Tiepolo. During the inaugural procession, wrote Canale, glassblowers and other glassworkers (fioles et d’autres laborers de vere) carried “water bottles, scent flasks, and other graceful objects of glass.”19

Three years after the Doge’s inauguration, on February 4, 1271 to be exact, the Venetian glassmaker’s guild put quill to vellum for the first time, setting out the rules and regulations governing their craft. This document was called the Capitolare de Fiolariis. The statutes of the Capitolare, as it is known, provided instruction about glasshouse operations and schedules, relations between owners and workers, qualifications for master craftsmen, and product sales. Furnaces had to be fired with willow or alder, for example, and no glasshouse was to have less than three working holes in their furnaces. The Capitolare limited glass production to the months of January to August with a five-month annual recess, a schedule that would prove to be problematic. The Mariegola of 1441 was the singlemost significant amendment to the Capitolare; otherwise the document was honored by glassmakers, more or less unaltered, for the next 500 years.20

The styles and forms of the glasswares made in Venice at this time, as well as on the nearby islands of Murano, are recognized only in a few vessels and excavated fragments. Until around 1480, the most important records for Venetian glass are not objects but documents, such as the Capitolare, and depictions seen in paintings of the period. Window glass, glass weights, wine and oil bottles, ribbed and plain beakers, cups, and occasionally a footed goblet were typical of the blown, primarily utilitarian production of the Venetians, in addition to stranger objects such as urinals, mentioned in French literature of the period. Other glass activities included the preparation of enamels and the manufacture of imitation gems (veriselli) as well as beads (marghieri), popular for rosaries.21

From early on, Venetian wares were widely exported. Archival records report that consignments of glasses, “special and ordinary,” were sold to the Levant in 1276 by the Muranese glassworks owner, Antonio da Stra, and that glass was sent to Germany as early as 1282. Fragments of glass beakers with enameled decoration, dating to the early 1300s, have even been discovered in London; one of these fragments was found marked with the name of a glass enameler, a Magister Bartolomaeus, known to be active in Murano between 1290 and 1325. The fact that the earliest mention of glass decorating in Murano is that of Gregorio da Napoli, a “painter of glasses” active between about 1280 and 1288, makes the London find all the more impressive.22

It is generally accepted that the Venetians learned the decorative technique of enameling and gilding on glass from Islamic glassmakers who first developed it between 1170 and 1270 at the Syrian city of Raqqa, in the Levant.23 But decorative techniques were not the only Venetian import from the East. While some of the raw materials needed to make glass, such as sand, could be acquired locally, other valuable and necessary materials, such as ash, were purchased from the Levant as well as the Italian mainland. The famous Islamic glassmaking centers of Syria attracted Venetian interest from at least 1277, the date of an official communication between the Venetian doge Giacomo Contarini and the prince Bohemund of Antioch. The aviso concerned the export of cullet (the broken-up glass that is melted with raw materials to make the glass batch), notifying the Venetians that if they were going to take cullet from Antioch, they would have to pay a tax.24 By 1290, Murano glassmakers were adding other imported raw materials to their glass, such as manganese “stone” which they imported from Germany, France, and Spain. In addition to being a colorant for glass, manganese also acted as a decolorant. Antonio da Pisa, a stained glass master active around 1395, relates how the mineral was used:25

Glass is green by nature but if they wish to make it clear the makers put into it a stone... which is [also] used by those who make earthenware pots and they put some in and the glass turns white; more and it turns flesh-colored. The stone comes from Catalonia.

From the late 1200s on, imported raw materials (especially the Levantine ash which contained the perfect proportions of soda and lime) were indispensable to the Venetian glass industry. Levantine ash produced a colorless glass “less inclined to a blewness”26 and the Venetians attempted to control its export from the beginning. Competition from Terraferma glasshouses at Padua, Ravenna, Treviso, and Vicenza was always a challenge, as was maintaining supremacy over the larger Italian glassmaking centers established at Naples, Florence, and especially Altare, near Genoa.

Glassmakers, too, were proving to be as difficult to control as the precious raw materials. The five-month annual recess, as outlined in the Capitolare, in reality encouraged glassworkers to find work elsewhere in order to maintain their incomes, and the Venetian Senate soon realized that protective measures would have to be imposed. The first of these measures were the edicts of November, 1291 and August, 1292 ordering all glassworks in the city of Venice (in civitate Rivoalti) to relocate to Murano, with the exception of the small furnaces used to manufacture beads and imitation gems. Although the new regulations were supposedly instituted as a precautionary measure, minimizing the danger of fire in Venice proper, the move mostly benefited the authorities. By relocating major glassmaking operations to Murano, the profitable activities of the glassmaking community could be carefully monitored, industrial security maintained, and the exportation of raw materials and migrant workers controlled.27

Much to the displeasure of the Venetian government, the problem of glassmakers finding work outside of Venice during the annual recess did not go away, even when the workers were threatened with fines and imprisonment. Venetian craftsmen were in great demand on the Italian mainland and elsewhere, and since they weren’t paid during the recess, they were naturally attracted to foreign glass centers. Some who worked abroad settled there permanently. Outside of Venice glassworkers were free to travel, provided that they did not impart their secrets and continued to pay their taxes, and no limits were imposed on glass production. Yet, most glassworkers wanted to stay in Venice and have the freedom to go back and forth, or just be able to work year-round. The Venetian Senate, however, would make no concessions on these points. In 1295, a new decree was issued, increasing the fines that glassworkers would have to pay if they had worked abroad and wished to repatriate.28 But even while they were imposing and increasing fines for errant glassworkers, the Venetian authorities recognized the need to keep their best craftsmen in Murano and to attract talent from the outside. To this end, they gave tax exemptions to foreign artists who brought their families to live on Murano and even loaned money to glassworkers so that they could settle their debts, including fines. After much discussion and many decrees adjusting the length of the recess, the Venetian Senate finally abandoned the idea—first in 1420 (for seven years) and then sometime after 1500—allowing Murano’s glassmaking operations to continue year-round.29

By 1400, the Venetian glass industry was hitting its stride in spite of continuing problems with migrating glassworkers and the illegal export of high-grade raw materials, specifically Levantine ash, from Venice to the Italian mainland and abroad. The republic of Venice had expanded its territories into the Terraferma, eradicating its glass competition there, and the Venetian Senate renewed their prohibition against working outside of Venice in 1403, threatening glassmakers with harsher penalties in the form of increased fines and, for the first time, a mandatory, three-month prison term.30 In the meantime, the sack of Damascus and other Syrian cities in 1400 by the central Asian Muslim warlord Tamerlane (Timur) effectively put an end to the thriving Islamic glass industry. Venice was uniquely qualified to take advantage of this particular situation, and it was not long before Murano was producing Islamic-style wares for the Muslim market in addition to their own, increasingly popular designs made for the European market.31

On Murano, the term vetrario had replaced the older fiolario in city records by the early 1300s, and it was also around this time that the names of Murano's most respected glassmaking families began to appear. Some of the individuals known to have had glassworks operating in the early 14th century include the Barovier, Bigagia, Ferro, Fuga, Gaggio, Seguso, and Toso families; remarkably, the names Barovier, Ferro, Seguso, and Toso are all still very much in evidence today along the fondamenta vetrai, Murano's main glassmaking district (known as the rio dei verieri during the Renaissance).32 By 1416, there were 15 furnaces operating in Murano, a significant number of businesses for this period. An indication of the surprisingly large output that glasshouses were capable of at the time is provided by a contract, dated 1409, listing the existing inventory of a Verona glassworks at 40,000 pieces. It was also around this time, by 1424 at the latest, that the Muranese tradition of naming glasshouses (fornaci) began. Rather than being identified by the names of the families that owned them, glass furnaces acquired their own descriptive monikers and signs: for example, the Pinecone (alla Pigna); the Angel (al' Angelo) glassworks owned by the Baroviers; or the Mermaid (alla Sirena) glasshouse run by the Catani brothers.33

Angelo Barovier and the Murano Renaissance

I was taken along the main street, which they call the Grand Canal, and it is very broad. Galleys cross it and I have seen there ships of 400 tons or more near the houses: and it is the fairest street I believe that may be in the whole world, with the best of houses, and it goes the whole length of the city. The houses are exceedingly large and high, and of good stone, and the ancient ones all painted. It is the most triumphant city I ever saw. Philippe de Commynes, ambassador of the King of France, 149534

Considering the steady growth of the Venetian glass industry during the 13th and 14th centuries, and all the controls that the Venetian government imposed to safeguard its lucrative craft, there are surprisingly few objects that have survived from the period. The production, or what is known of it, appears to have been fairly straightforward utilitarian wares, hardly seeming worth the trouble to protect. All this changed in the mid 15th century, between 1450 and 1460. Suddenly new glass forms began to appear in painting—bottles and every kind of drinking glass, pitchers, flower vases, large presentation pieces, ink-holders, hourglasses, and oil-lamps35—and Venetian glass production surged forward, eclipsing its Italian and European competitors. In his widely-read book titled De Re Metallica, published in 1556, the 16th-century writer, Gregorius Agricola, described the celebrated products of Venice:36

Glassmen make a variety of objects: cups, phials, pitchers, globular bottles, dishes, saucers, mirrors, animals, trees, ships. Of so many fine and wonderful objects I should take long to tell. I have seen such at Venice and especially at the Feast of the Ascension when they were on sale at Murano where are the most famous of all glass factories.

The Venetian glass industry’s rapid fortune after 1450 was mainly due to the introduction of an amazing new material: a feather-light, malleable, and colorless soda-lime glass, called cristallo, that is said to be the invention of Murano's greatest glassmaker, Angelo Barovier (c. 1400–1460).37 The chemical make-up of cristallo is much different than that of the heavy and thick-walled lead crystal glasses so sought after during the 18th century. But, like the lead crystals, Renaissance cristallo was immensely popular for its imitation of rock crystal, a natural quartz that was prized at the time for its magical properties. A status material, rock crystal was incorporated into religious objects of veneration and only the very wealthy could use it for domestic purposes: cristallo glass proved to be the perfect middle-class substitute. No single glasshouse had exclusive rights to the new material and in 1456 and 1457, Angelo Barovier, Nicolo Mozetto, and Jacopo d'Anzolo were all granted permission to carry out experiments with cristallo during the annual recess. An instant hit, cristallo was soon worked by every glasshouse in Murano.38

Contemporary sources praised the beauty of the glass and it was not long before the sale of cristallo was prohibited in Venetian shops; foreign buyers were expected to go directly to the glasshouses to buy it. According to the Italian historian Luigi Zecchin, it was from this time on that visiting glasshouses and observing Muranese glassblowers at work became one of the attractions Venice offered its important visitors. The 15th-century traveler, William Wey (d. 1474), even advised the pilgrim to the Holy Land, embarking from Venice, to be sure to buy “dysches, platterrys, sawserrys, and other cuppys” of the new glass.39

Angelo Barovier, a cosmopolitan man who traveled extensively, was much admired by his contemporaries for his glassmaking skills. His true genius lay, however, in the research and development of new glasses, both colored and colorless. Barovier’s experiments and the invention of cristallo led to the development of other luxury glasses that imitated stones such “chalcedony” glass, first mentioned in connection with the Baroviers in 1460. “There is no precious stone which cannot be imitated by the industry of the glassworkers,” wrote Marcantonio Sabellico in 1490. “[But] to whom did it occur to include in a little ball all the sorts of flowers which clothe the meadows in spring?”40 The ancient Roman technique of mosaic glass, to which Sabellico refers, was revived in Murano in 1496 by Angelo’s son Marino Barovier. Also called millefiori or murrine, Barovier must have known of ancient examples, as did others, from the archaeological discoveries of classical art that were constantly being made during the Renaissance. The Baroviers also produced enamels; in 1487, Angelo’s daughter Maria Barovier, one of the few women glassmakers known from this period, received permission from the Doge to build a little furnace for firing enamels onto glass. She may also have used her furnace in fusing mosaic glass for items such as knife handles.41

Strength, elasticity, and transparency were the most remarkable qualities of Renaissance cristallo, qualities that enabled Muranese glassmakers, for the first time in the history of glass, to create new forms for glass that were not derived from shapes found in metalwork or ceramics. Embodying the fundamental Renaissance ideals of harmony, proportion and balance, these dramatic new forms have survived in the silhouette of the wine goblet. Now familiar and even mundane, the new style of wine glass made a tremendous impact throughout the Renaissance world, increasing the demand for Venetian glass and insuring continued prosperity for the glass manufacturers of Murano.

Perhaps the most brilliant decorative technique inspired by the new cristallo was filigree glass, or vetro a filigrana, a colorless glass incorporating stripes and twists of white or colored glass cane. The first record of filigree glass is the petition made by the brothers Filippo and Bernardo Catani of the glasshouse alla Sirena, in 1527, for a 25-year exclusive on their new invention, a glass striped with lattimo (white) canes of twisted patterns, described as “facete con retortoli a fil.” The Council of Ten granted them the rights for ten years only, and by 1540 the new technique was all over Murano.42 By 1600, vetro a filigrana would be exported in impressive numbers from Murano and copied in glasshouses all over Europe. It was even exported to the new British colonies in America, as excavations at 17th-century Jamestown, Virginia, have shown.

Venice not only cornered the market on drinking glasses, but was internationally recognized for its production of elaborate tablepieces such as the boat-shaped nefs, invented in 1525, and for its glass mirrors, invented around 1500.

In his book De la pirotechnia, published in Venice in 1540, Vanoccio Biringuccio remarked on the new filigrana decoration, referring to “large things, as well as small” made by the Muranese glassmakers out of “white and colored glass.” The glasses, noted Biringuccio, “seem to be woven of osier twigs, equally spaced with the greatest uniformity and exactness of termination.”43 From his description it is clear that Biringuccio had never seen the new technique performed and did not understand how filigrana was made; it was evidently in the best interest of Murano glassmakers to keep the technical details of their glasses to themselves. Venice not only cornered the market on drinking glasses, but was internationally recognized for its production of elaborate tablepieces such as the boat-shaped nefs, invented in 1525,44 and for its glass mirrors, invented around 1500.45

Glassmakers, Alchemists, and Secrecy

In order to make glass in the color of any precious stone you wish, take ten pounds of pebbles from the TicinoRiver, well crushed, and ten pounds of soda ashes, well crushed; and these should be soda ashes from Syria. Within this twenty pounds, put two pounds of treated tartar salt [derived from calcined wine deposits and used as a flux and colorant] and make everything a mixture. Put it in a pot [crucible] made of Valenza earth [from Terraferma] to melt in the furnace used in the manufacture of drinking glasses. When it is well fused and baked, give it the color you want little by little, mixing it together with an iron rod in such a way that the mixture will not adhere to the iron rod. And thus proceeding slowly, the glass will be ready to take on any color you wish it to take. Recipe for glass, c. 140046

The explosion of new glasses and techniques during the period from about 1450 to 1550 caused the Venetian Senate to clamp down on errant glassworkers and halt black market sales of raw materials. Frustrated by internal defection and foreign competition, the glassmaker’s guild was placed under the jurisdiction of the Council of Ten in 1490.47 The Council of Ten addressed issues of national security, both military and industrial, that in an age before copyrights was a particularly crucial function for industry. And the Venetians had much to protect. Imports of ash alone, by the end of the 15th century, reached some 1,700 tons annually48 and by 1550, Murano had 36 registered glasshouses and 24 glass bead factories operating on its islands.49 Of a total estimated population between 145,000 and 170,000 living in the city of Venice, with 7,000 of these living on Murano, it is estimated that around 3,000 individuals on Murano were involved in glassmaking at that time.50

The secrecy imposed on Muranese glassworkers by the Venetian authorities is legendary. “If a glassmaker took his knowledge out of Murano, and set himself up in business elsewhere,” relates Jan Morris, “inexorable and pitiless were the agents of the State sent to find him, wherever he was, and kill him.”51 In actuality, only one or two glassmakers were dispatched in this manner, of the many who emigrated, but the Venetian Senate did issue a series of threatening decrees.52 The manufacture of cristallo, in particular, was restricted to Murano; one source relates that even if an employee of a glasshouse broke his ten-year contract he could continue to make glass, but not cristallo, chalcedony or any of the other luxury glasses. If he did so, he would be fined a year’s wages. In a failed attempt of 1549 to control cristallo and other specialty glass manufacture outside Murano, the Council of Ten had their agents throughout Europe prepare lists of the names of all expatriate glassmakers so that they could recall Venetian craftsmen working abroad.53

In spite of the dire threats made by the Council, the constant outflow of glassmakers from Venice resulted in façon de Venise (Venetian-style) wares cropping up in the glasshouses of Austria, Germany, England, France, the Netherlands, and Spain. Sometimes these expatriate glassmakers were protected by foreign governments. Around 1550 the French governor of Poitiou sheltered a Muranese glassblower named Fabian Salviate, and in 1605, Domingo Barovier asked for special recognition from authorities in Mallorca, Spain, claiming that he and his family would be exiled from Venice for teaching local workers the secrets of making cristallo. The most famous expatriate was the Muranese glassblower Giacomo Verzelini who established a Venetian-style glassworks in London. In December 1575, Verzelini was granted a royal patent to manufacture cristallo “drynkynge glasses suche as be commonly made and wroughte in the towne of Morano nere vnto the Citie of Vennys in Italye.” The patent noted that “James Verselyne...hathe to his greate costes and chardges erected and set vppe within oure said Cittie of London one ffurneys and set on worke dyvers and sondrie parsonnes” and it assured Verzelini of exclusive rights to the material for the next 21 years. Any other persons attempting to make cristallo could look forward to “imprisonment...and moreover to incurre oure highe displeasure and indignacion.”54

Secrecy, too, became a glassmaking tradition in Venice over the centuries. Even today, Muranese glassmakers may suffer social censure for sharing their knowledge, not for the information they impart, necessarily, but for violating the traditions of the glassmaking brotherhood.

The secretive nature of glassmaking and the strict hierarchy of the glasshouse owe more, perhaps, to their roots in medieval guilds than to the Venetian government’s protectionist policies. During the Middle Ages, glass and other trades, like stonemasonry, had a strong esoteric side. Secrecy, too, became a glassmaking tradition in Venice over the centuries. Even today, Muranese glassmakers may suffer social censure for sharing their knowledge, not for the information they impart, necessarily, but for violating the traditions of the glassmaking brotherhood. While a glassmaker is free to lead his life as he wishes, the craft of glassmaking does not belong to him alone: it is part of the long history of a community which continues to derive strength from, and be defined by, its shared traditions.55

There has never been found a more delightful art than that of glass... It is supreme in the renowned and divine city of Venice, in a certain locality nearby called Murano, a beautiful and most pleasant place, inhabited with virtuous and good people. Leonardo Fioravanti, 1564.56

Beautiful vessels carved from rock crystal and colored and veined stones, such as chalcedony, agate, jasper, garnet, and amethyst, were widely collected by the Renaissance courts of Europe, and in their development of the luxury glasses that imitated these stones, Angelo Barovier and other Venetian glassmakers were successful in keeping up-to-date on fashions and changing tastes. Indeed, such specialty items were popular exports from early on.57 But the making of these imitation stone glasses, the transmutation of sand and ash (through breath and fire) into facsimiles of crystals, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires also had an arcane aspect, bringing the activity of glassmaking into the mystical realm of alchemy.

The unique properties of glass held a special attraction for medieval and Renaissance alchemists and Renaissance alchemical treatises even specify the use of glass in the making of the philosopher’s stone.58 While some alchemy, and maybe even glassmaking,59 skirted the edges of black magic, the science was primarily about chemistry. Alchemists attempted to push the limits of metallurgy, through chemistry, developing an agent they called the philosopher’s stone. The foundation of alchemy, the philosopher’s stone was the secret and sacred property by which alchemists could turn base metals, such as lead, into gold. The transformational properties of glass, which can have the appearance of a clear, translucent crystal or a dark, dense sapphire, was always of interest to alchemists. And with the addition of gold, the material took on a ruby color, brilliant like the alchemist’s elusive Red Elixir, the ultimate “werke of alchymye” that signaled the successful production of the philosopher’s stone.60 Although some alchemists claimed to have succeeded in their efforts, the transmutation of metals (and other materials) is now known only to occur atomically, with the help of a modern philosopher's stone: the nuclear accelerator.61

The alchemist’s passion for the transmutation of metals found its equivalent in glass in the artificial making of precious stones62 and from medieval times, it appears, the transformational nature of glass was understood as alchemical. Angelo Barovier is known to have attended lectures by the well-known philosopher and alchemist, Paolo da Pergola, at the School of Rialto around 1450. And in the mid 16th-century writings of Renaissance naturalist, Ferrante Imperato, the making of the philosopher’s stone and the transmutation of metals is discussed along with recipes to make colorless glass.63 The first formulas for colored glasses, however, did not appear until Antonio Neri’s compendium of 1612, entitled L’Arte Vetraria. This important handbook, published in Florence and translated into English in 1662, recorded Neri’s practical experiments with different recipes for colored glasses at the Medici furnaces in Pisa and Florence, and at the Antwerp glasshouse of Filippo Ghiridolfi. One of Neri’s friends, the Portuguese Emanuel Ximenes, corresponded regularly with Neri on matters of science, urging him to read the works, among others, of the controversial German physician and alchemist, Paracelsus, who advocated the practice of alchemy to make medicines.64

From an alchemical point of view, the engineer of the activity of glassmaking, namely, the master glassblower who was traditionally in charge of the batch, is the magus, the holder of the secrets of an arcane art. The 16th-century doctor and alchemist, Leonardo Fioravanti, described the glassmaker Niccolo da Aquila as a “miraculous and divine master,”65 an attribute that is still acknowledged, if perhaps unspoken, in the most accomplished masters of the process today.

[Glass is]...a fusible substance, almost turned into a mineral by the art, the power and the virtue of fire, born from the speculation of the most skilled alchemists who have imitated metals on the one side and the diaphaneity and resplendence of jewels on the other. [It is]...a thing of utmost beauty, not to be left buried in silence. Vannoccio Biringuccio, 154066

International Glass in Venice: September, 1996

Venice shall rival the world itself in its eternal life—that world which is astounded that nature has placed her in so incredible a site, and that Heaven has been so generous to her in its gifts that she outshines in her nobility, magnificence, riches, palaces, churches, pious foundations, virtues, councils, empire, fame and glory, any other city that ever was. Pietro Aretino, 153067

In September 1996, the Venezia Aperto Vetro, the first international biennial for contemporary art in glass, was held at the Palazzo Ducale and the Museo Correr in the San Marco quarter of the city of Venice, and at the Museo Vetrario on the nearby islands of Murano.68 Venice was particularly well-suited as a site for this inaugural event, not only for its obvious connection as “the spiritual home” or even “Mecca” of glass,69 but for its tradition of hosting one of the most prestigious expositions in the world of contemporary art: the Venice Biennale.70 The choice of the Palazzo Ducale to showcase the work of an international group of recognized glass artists was particularly appropriate since “dazzling exhibitions of the treasures and skills of Venetian industry and craftsmanship” were traditionally held in the halls and galleries of the Palazzo on state occasions.71

The Venezia Aperto Vetro included artwork by over 100 international artists working in glass, with vessels, sculpture and installations by 26 “masters,” including Dale Chihuly, whose work for the Aperto tied in to his own monumental project, Chihuly Over Venice.

Curated by British glass historian and art critic, Dan Klein, with Venetian historian and museum administrator, Attila Dorigato, and advised by an international committee of 15 arts professionals,72 the Venezia Aperto Vetro included artwork by over 100 international artists working in glass, with vessels, sculpture and installations by 26 “masters,” including Dale Chihuly, whose work for the Aperto tied in to his own monumental project, Chihuly Over Venice.

By attracting foreign glass artists to Venice where, in the words of Venice’s cultural Assessore, Gianfranco Mossetto, “there is a long overdue renaissance of glass creativity,”73 it was hoped that the traditions of Murano would be revived by the powerful wave of artistic energy that contemporary artists working in glass were demonstrating throughout the rest of Europe, the United States, Australia, and Japan. The current crisis, one of many to afflict the Muranese glass industry in its long history, was the result of what Venice’s authorities, in Renaissance times, tried so desperately to achieve: isolation.“The cause for the artistic deficit [in Murano] has been the same for years,” remarks Dan Klein. “Murano is a microcosm largely sealed off from the rest of the world.”74 ‘Il vetro veneziano,” reported the Roman newspaper, Il Sole,”e in forte crisi di vocazione artistica.”75

Venice’s earliest glass expositions in modern times were the First and Second Glassware Exhibitions organized in 1864 and 1869 to showcase works by Muranese masters. The organizer of these exhibitions was the abbot Vincenzo Zanetti, who co-founded Murano’s Museo Vetrario with Antonio Colleoni and became the museum’s director in 1861.76 The goal of the museum was to provide a historical collection that would stimulate living glass artists. Its founding was part of the important revival, in the mid 19th century, of glassmaking in Venice, which had suffered a nearly fatal blow after the fall of the Venetian Republic to Napoleon in 1797. This fallow period, during which the glassmaking population of Murano shrank to a few hundred people and the glassmaker’s guild was abolished, lasted until about 1850.77 By 1860, there was a new interest in historical styles in glass, primarily from classical antiquity and the Renaissance, by glasshouses such as Salviati & C., founded in 1856 by Antonio Salviati, and the Compagnia Venezia e Murano, founded in 1866 by a consortium of British investors. The Toso brothers, Antonio Seguso, Giovanni Barovier, and Vincenzo Moretti, whose families would all become key designers in glass of the 20th century, also participated in this revival of traditional styles.78

An ongoing program for the display of Murano glass was established with the Biennale Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia, which lasted from its inception in 1895 until 1972.79 Many of the designers who gained international recognition during Murano’s renascence of the 1940s and 1950s were undoubtedly stimulated by these biennali which unfortunately ceased just when the studio glass movement began to take shape in America and Europe.80

Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, American studio glass artists visited and worked in Europe, especially with the renowned glassmakers of Murano, to acquire technical knowledge unavailable to them in the United States. In spite of protestations at the time of technique as “cheap” or overrated, meaning that artists should explore experimental approaches rather than become mired in “craft,” technique quickly became the rallying point of the fledgling studio glass movement. The result was that American and European studio glass of the 1970s and early 1980s experienced dramatic aesthetic and technical changes while the glass of Murano, in comparison, remained static. Dale Chihuly was one of several American artists to visit Murano and work at the celebrated firm of Venini Glass. Chihuly remembers his arrival in the winter of 1969:

I arrived in Venice [and] took a little room in a palazzo...[I] wandered around the foggy city for a long time before I got up enough nerve to catch the vaporetto for Murano.81

The experience of visiting Murano is still a powerful one for glassmakers, historians, and collectors. For Americans particularly (whose histories are rarely traceable beyond a hundred years or so, if that), the sight of 14th-century names still associated with glass furnaces and still in the same place can be at once humbling, intriguing, and unnerving. The participants of the Venezia Aperto Vetro—artists, writers, collectors, historians, gallerists, and curators—each took part in what turned out to be a meaningful tribute to the history of glass in Venice and Murano as well as a celebration of contemporary studio glass. As a movement, studio glass is rapidly changing and expanding and the revival of a Venetian glass biennial in the form of an international forum comes at an opportune time, a period in glass that is experiencing a resurgence of energy which is no longer young and fresh, but mature and vibrant.

Dale Chihuly: Chandeliers

[I am] a foster child of Venice. She has taught me all that I have rightly learned of the arts which are my joy. John Ruskin, 187782

The famous British poet, philosopher, art historian, and critic, John Ruskin, is known primarily for his writings advocating philosophies of the turn-of-the-century arts and crafts movement in England. However, Ruskin made lengthy visits to Venice during the 1840s and 1850s and was much influenced by the city and its architecture where “each individual building seemed to contain a work of art, to be a work of art, and to take part in a greater work of art.”83 Like Ruskin and many artists throughout history, Dale Chihuly also found an artistic grounding in Venice, particularly in its glass traditions. “[The Venini] project put me in close contact with the masters of the factory, and I learned and observed the way in which the Italians blew glass,” remembers Chihuly. “It changed my attitude and ideas about glassblowing forever.”84

Chihuly’s understanding of the way in which color can create space, and architecture can create mood, are evident in his art, particularly in his installations.

Venice and the Venetian style— classical, extroverted, and colorful—are recurring leitmotifs in Chihuly’s artistic life, especially since his first collaborations in 1988 with Lino Tagliapietra, the Muranese glass master who helped the artist realize his series known as the Venetians. Although most people associate Chihuly’s name with his heat-and gravity-formed vessel-based sculptures, such as the Seaforms and Macchias, he has been interested in large-scale installations, architecture, and architectural glass since his collaborations in the mid 1970s with New York artist James Carpenter. Chihuly’s understanding of the way in which color can create space, and architecture can create mood, are evident in his art, particularly in his installations. Over time, Chihuly’s desire for scale, for huge scale, has become palpable and the Chandeliers evolved as a way to address that concern.

The material itself is a continuing source of inspiration [for me]. I usually have an idea and begin to work on a concept that might be intellectual or from something I’ve seen or read, but then it's taken over to a large extent by the process itself.85

Chihuly made his first Chandelier for his solo exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum in 1992. “It was a big show and there was one area that wasn't working,” Chihuly recalls. “At the last minute I asked the glassblowers to start making a very simple shape, one of the fastest and easiest forms one can blow. It was strong and simple and I knew it would hang well. We...hung it in the museum before mocking it up completely: it was risky but I was very confident.”86

What Chihuly liked best about the Chandeliers was his ability to mass lots of color and then shoot light through it to create a transformational environment:

When you hang a Chandelier in space, it becomes mysterious, defying gravity, seemingly out of place. Now that's going to be something you want to take a look at. Something you have never seen before.87

The chandelier is one of the few forms in glass that has scale, is three-dimensional, is vessel-related, is animated by light, is airborne, and is capable of transforming an environment, all of which are important qualities for Chihuly’s work. These are also themes that the artist has explored in his Macchias, and especially in his Persians series. While the Macchias explore form, scale, color, and light, their nature is essentially self-contained: they are their own environments. The multi-element, large-scale installations of the Persians, however, push Chihuly’s concept of the transformational space even further. The Persians were the first series to actively engage with their architectural context, especially when they became airborne as in the Venturi Window which Chihuly designed for his show at the Seattle Art Museum. The Chandeliers bring this process another step along in enabling Chihuly to work with form, color, and light to create sculptural installations, of potentially limitless scale, that function as transformational agents for indoor or (even more difficult) outdoor space. And unlike the Persians, the individual elements of the Chandeliers are not discrete objects; they do not exist as a work apart from the installation.

“Lots of people don't like the name Chandeliers for my pieces,” remarks Chihuly. “They're not really chandeliers in the traditional sense.” “Dale's Chandeliers aren't chandeliers, they are sculpture,” agrees Lino Tagliapietra. “If you treat them like chandeliers or think of them like traditional chandeliers, you are making a mistake. In very dark palazzo, a brilliant chandelier is one way to bring in light, energy, and fire. In this, Dale's work is similar, it is impressive for its energy.”88

The transformational capabilities of traditional chandeliers and Chihuly’s Chandeliers are about the only quality they share, apart from being hung from a ceiling. But as Chihuly demonstrated in Venice, his Chandeliers do not need to be hung to work effectively. Given the enormous technical and public safety problems of hanging anywhere from 1,200 to 3,000 pounds of glass from wires attached into decayed and unstable buildings, Chihuly opted for a different approach for some of the outdoor Chandeliers which he developed with artist John Landon. Instead of hanging, the Chandeliers were supported by tall steel tripods or four-footed scaffolds, easily adaptable to different sites, equipped with a cone-shaped steel basket. The elements of the Chandeliers were individually attached to the basket and allowed to hang, their weight, up to 25 pounds per element, supported by the metal armature. When suspended in this manner, Chihuly’s Chandeliers looked even more like “bunches of exotic fruit,” as they were described in the press, than traditional chandeliers.89

Chandeliers and Spectacles

It will be interesting to hear what people think of when they see the Chandeliers hanging over the canals. Will they think of traditional chandeliers or [will they understand them] something else? -Dale Chihuly90

While glass vessels continue to be a successful Italian commodity today, Lino Tagliapietra has observed that chandeliers are commercially even more important for Venice.91 Venice has cornered a certain chandelier market, and evidence of the production of every conceivable style of chandelier and sconce can be seen throughout the showrooms of Murano. But apart from some of the most skillful reproductions of early chandeliers (which are primarily of historical interest although they are often quite beautiful), there is nothing new that generates any excitement. “Something started from my collaboration with Dale,” remarks Lino Tagliapietra. “I tried to explain this in Murano but nobody understood. They're not open, they have a different philosophy. In Murano, they make things that are easy to sell. It's one commercial choice. People will say bad things about Dale's Chandeliers but I am also absolutely sure that they will try to copy them. At the time of Briati, Murano was more open than it is now; people had more fantasy, more ideas.”92

As in many other areas of glass design, Murano was once the leader in the manufacture of chandeliers and the glassmaker, Guiseppe Briati (1686–1722) was said to be the best. In the years around 1700, the Venetian glass industry was experiencing a critical slump due to the new popularity of Bohemian (Czech) crystal glasses. Murano glassmakers were attempting to alter their soda-lime glass batch, which was prone to glass disease, but Briati was the first to experiment with producing a potash glass ad uso di Bohemia (in the Bohemian manner) to compete with Bohemian products.93 Briati had learned to make Bohemian glass while employed at a Bohemian glasshouse and he eventually returned to Venice, establishing a workshop on Murano in 1739 which he later moved to Dorsoduro, in Venice proper.94 Briati revived Renaissance techniques, such as vetro a filigrana, and created the first chandeliers, called lampadaria, made entirely of glass.95 Briati’s lampadaria successfully competed with the metal and glass chandeliers coming out of Bohemia, valued as prestigious, status possessions throughout Europe, and Murano was once again in the public eye.

Glass has always played a part in the lavish spectacles and sumptuous pageants so adored by the Venetians, and the dramatic aspect of the pageant/performance is an important element of the Chihuly Over Venice installations. Concerning large-scale installations of glass in Venice, Lino Tagliapietra relates that the only activity slightly comparable to the Chihuly project would be during the annual celebration of the bacchanale, in summer. Part of the bacchanale festivities involve the making and display of chandeliers in boats which, at nightfall, are lit (now with electricity but originally with candles) and floated through the canals of Venice.96

The challenge of blowing glass on water is evidently a Venetian favorite. When Henry III of France visited Venice in 1574, his royal gondolas were escorted by an armada of decorated boats, including 14 galleys with glassblowers fashioning objects for the king's amusement out of the mouths of furnaces in the shape of marine monsters. Passing through triumphal arches specially erected for his visit (designed by the famous Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and painted by the equally famous Renaissance artists Jacopo Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese), the French king and his retinue entered the Ca’ Foscari on the Grand Canal, decorated with yards of gold cloth and Venetian velvets, where a state dinner for 3,000 people was served. The Venetian women wore only white and they were covered with pearls. “The king, a simple soul, was apparently never the same after that experience,” tells Jan Morris. And rumor had it that the unfortunate monarch, from that time on, lived “in a perpetual daze.”97

The first large-scale installation of glass in history did not occur in Venice, although the medium was Venetian glass, but in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1714. The Danish king, Frederik IV, had made a trip to Venice around Christmastime, 1708, where he acquired nearly a thousand pieces of glass. Danish accounts of the period claim that king Frederik picked all of the glasses himself, but the vast collection that was assembled was part gift and part purchases made in Venice and Murano. The Danish king was the first monarch to visit Venice since Henry III’s appearance in 1574, and the Venetian authorities made sure the king was given an appropriately lavish reception. Although, like Henry III, the king traveled incognito, he was met by four cavaliers who delivered his hospitality gift: a extraordinarily large rinfresco, conveyed in 12 boats, which consisted of candles, provisions (game, fish, chocolates, baskets of flowers), beverages (wine) and an estimated 225 pieces of glass (including filigrana, opal, cristallo with applied flowers, and Bohemian-style engraved potash glass).98

The glass items that were gifted to and purchased by the king were primarily drinking glasses and table glass although glass bells, knives, forks, spoons, chandeliers, mirrors, and glass fruits were part of the collection.99 Upon his return to Denmark, Frederik IV planned a special display for his new collection of Venetian glass at his home at Rosenborg Castle, and created a Glaskabinettet (Glass Room) inspired by a Porcelain Room he had seen at Charlottenburg Castle in Berlin. In the Glass Room, Frederik had the fruits arranged in festoons (hiring local, and clearly less skilled, glaziers to supply extra leaves “with which to trim the Venetian glass fruits”)100 and hung chandeliers and sconces to light the glass and the painted ceiling. The endless varieties of glass objects were displayed on graduated tiers of shelves covering every inch of available wall space; the walls behind the shelves were covered with glass plates over marbled paper, and large mirrors were placed over the doorways and in the fireplace. Carved and gilt putti attached beneath the shelves held leather cases containing the glass knives, forks, and spoons. The result was, and still is, a monument to fantasy, an exalted environment that remained unaltered for over 200 years.101

Although elements of the Chihuly Over Venice project may bring to mind such eccentric historical precedents as these, there has never been anything like Chihuly Over Venice in the craft-associated media to which glass belongs. Chihuly’s singular mixture of ambition, enchantment, heroic scale, and spectacle comes closest to works by contemporary Land artists, such as Christo, whose projects not only involve the temporary transformation of architecture and landscape, but engage the diverse group of people participating in the process (for example, artists and fabricators, builders, landowners, city officials) as well as witnesses of the project (media and other members of the public) in the artistic activity/performance.

Chihuly Over Venice: Finland, Ireland, and Mexico

Chihuly Over Venice started out with one concept, and ended with another. It started out with the end in sight: the Chandeliers hanging over the canals. But the hanging of the Chandeliers became secondary as the people became more important. All the glassblowers and artisans from different countries working hand in hand with the Americans...When you have great people great things are going to happen.102

Chihuly Over Venice was conceived as a site-specific project, that is, it was made for Venice and could not ultimately have been realized anywhere else. Chihuly’s initial vision saw Chandeliers hanging over the city’s Grand Canal and he could have focused Chihuly Over Venice exclusively on Venice, undergoing all his preparations in the U.S. and Italy. But the artist chose to enrich the texture of the entire process by involving people from additional sites and cultures with significant glass traditions. For this, too, Chihuly might have stayed in Europe: England, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and the Czech Republic (Bohemia) all have long histories of glassmaking. But he selected locales a little off the beaten track and more geographically varied: the Iittala Glassworks in Nuutajärvi, Finland, where Chihuly and a team of 30 people (including glass artists, installers, organizers, and photographers and other documenters) occupied the tiny village for the month of June in 1995; the Waterford Crystal Factory in Butlerstown, Ireland, where Chihuly’s team worked with Waterford glassblowers and master engravers for ten days in September, 1995; and Vitro Crisa in the large, industrial city of Monterrey, Mexico in January, 1996 where Seattle glass artists worked with commercial bottle blowers accustomed to production lines.

Glassmaking shares ancient techniques that transcend language barriers, yet every place had a distinctively different approach to glass that Chihuly realized would make the project, and the Chandeliers themselves, more exciting and energetic. Most importantly, these factories and the people who worked in them were interested in Chihuly Over Venice and committed to making it happen. Like most charismatic personalities, Chihuly likes people and knows that the right combination of temperaments can be his most dynamic ingredient:

Traditionally, the process of blowing glass was done in a team [because]'s more efficient. I like the community spirit, the idea of one person helping somebody else. The work develops better...and [it keeps] the energy going...I've found that by changing locations...there's a new shop and a new experience and a new excitement.103

I learned very early on that glassblowing is not done by yourself. It's done with a team. I learned that from the Venetians.

The glassblowing team is an artistic tool that Chihuly skillfully wields, mixing personalities and matching assignments to talents with the trained eye of the choreographer. “I learned very early on that glassblowing is not done by yourself,” says Chihuly. “It's done with a team. I learned that from the Venetians.”104 Unlike factory teams where a strict hierarchy among workers may be observed regardless of individual talent, Chihuly’s team, all of whom are artists, exchange jobs and all members, including the lead glassblower (gaffer), are regarded as equals.105 Local workers in Finland, Ireland, and Mexico were as much impressed by this approach to teamwork as by Chihuly’s glassblowing style: theatrical, energetic, experimental, unpredictable and always accompanied by music, the louder the better. At the Waterford factory, Chihuly and his team were momentarily taken aback when the factory glassblowers stopped working, and started dancing, the first day the music came on.

The Chandeliers blown at each glasshouse reflected the different glasses available for use as well as the special techniques of its glassworkers (such as Waterford’s trademark colorless, engraved crystal or the use, in Mexico, of silver nitrate to produce mirrored surfaces). Colors and shapes responded uniquely to each location: Chandeliers were hung in architectural spaces as well as outdoors, and individual elements sometimes floated in water. Not surprisingly, the Chandeliers looked especially effective in architectural settings, such as the 500 year-old Lismore Castle near Waterford, framed and defined by the structure and articulation of the building. More unexpected, perhaps, was how easily the Chandeliers took to the outdoors, their simple masses of color and organic shapes appearing completely natural bobbing in still water or hanging from thickly-leafed trees (sometimes over large river rocks or partially floating), or swaying from small, neat bridges over quiet creeks. In Nuutajärvi, Chihuly experienced the ecstasy of making his glass truly airborne by pitching individual Chandelier elements into the river from an overhanging bridge. Traveling downstream, the elements were eventually herded and retrieved to be assembled into a new object for the next leg of their amazing journey.

The city of Venice presented Chihuly with a unique urban environment for the Chandeliers: a combination of exquisite architecture and an extraordinary natural setting. Although some of the Chandeliers were installed outdoors in Mexico—played off against Monterrey’s industrial milieu of smokestacks, silos, and factories—the busy, primarily residential context of Venice proved to be especially challenging. In their careful placement along the Grand Canal and elsewhere, Chihuly’s Chandeliers would compete visually with the city’s celebrated architecture: its august painted churches, and of course, its splendid Moorish Gothic palazzos, “narrow as the jealous eyes of Othello” as French surrealist poet Louis Aragon once described them.

Chihuly Over Venice: Venice, la Serenissma

The work is not put in a place, it is that place. Michael Heizer 106

“I have sought to make crystal yield forth all the tender or fierce expression it can summon when guided by a hand that delights in it...Is it not for us that the poet has written, I harvest in secret mysterious flowers!” Emile Gallé107

During two and a half weeks in late August/early September, 1996, Dale Chihuly, his project manager and fiancée, Leslie Jackson, and a crew of about 25 people moved to Venice to implement the final phase of Chihuly Over Venice: the installation of the Chandeliers blown in Finland, Ireland, Mexico, and the artist's studio in Seattle, over and alongside the city's famous canals. The crew, housed in a convent in the neighborhood of Santo Stefano, met each morning in an unassuming warehouse in the Dorsoduro quarter of Venice facing a gorgeous view of the island of the Guidecca. The heart of Chihuly’s operations, all activities were staged from the Dorsoduro warehouse (nicknamed the “War Room”) by operations director Parks Anderson: the team's goal was to have fourteen Chandeliers installed, in their indoor and outdoor locations, by the night of the opening of the Venezia Aperto Vetro on September 12th. Like the Aperto, the Chandeliers would remain on view for only two months before their deinstallation and return to the United States.

Bulky groups of numbered, custom-made shipping boxes, boldly marked with the warning, VETRO, were transported by boat to installation sites throughout the city with the help of local navigators. Finding locations in Venice can be difficult enough for the novice on foot, not to mention winding through narrow, unmarked canals whose passages vary with the tides. The Romanesque cloister of Sant’ Aponal was the destination of one collection of boxes that contained sea-turquoise Chandelier elements blown in Nuutajärvi.108 Located in a quiet corner of San Polo close to the famous Bridge of Sighs and just a few blocks from the breathless tourist throng of the Riva degli Schiavone, the silent cloister provided a refreshingly contemplative setting for Chihuly’s elaborate sculpture. Installed by the artist’s crew in the small central courtyard over an ancient cistern, the shimmering blue Chandelier seemed to come alive in the incomparably soft, contouring Venetian light (the perfect chiaroscuro), blooming like a mysterious Medusa-like flower, its long and curling petals luminous and serpentine.

Other boxes held elements for a brilliant neon orange Chandelier—a smallish version consisting of 500 pounds of glass blown at the Chihuly Studio in Seattle—destined for the Rialto markets, specifically, the Pescheria, which has been the site of a bustling fish market for the past thousand years. Hanging from the roof like a giant hornet's nest, the ribbed, cornucopia-shaped Chandelier elements smoldered with a gentle, orange warmth against the dark wood of the neo-Gothic loggia.

“I'm not sure whether I like the Chandeliers better hanging or supported,” remarks Chihuly while observing the Sant’ Aponal installation. “I never know how things are going to work out.” Considering the massive amount of planning for a project the size of Chihuly Over Venice, and the speed and efficiency with which the installations were accomplished, the remark seems an odd understatement. Yet, for all their planning, Chihuly’s crew was constantly challenged by last-minute changes and unforeseen circumstances. While one team worked on installing an effusive and large citron green Chandelier (blown in Monterrey) on the waterfront terrace of the 15th-century Palazzo Loredan on the Grand Canal, another worked on retrieving the melon-colored bulbs of a Nuutajärvi Chandelier floating in the water of the squero of San Trovaso. Residents nearby the 17th-century squero, a gondola yard in Dorsoduro that is the only surviving boatyard of its kind in the city, found the sound of the glass elements being knocked together by the constant tidal ebb and flow too disturbing.

One golden pink Chandelier from Seattle, installed in the campo fronting the white, intensely-sculpted façade of the Baroque church of Santa Maria della Salute,109 was only on view for few days. Unbeknownst to Chihuly and his crew, and apparently to the city officials who approved the location, a large literary conference had been scheduled in the campo San Salute at the same time. Always gracious, Chihuly and his crew deinstalled the 1,600-pound Chandelier without complaint or regret. Although Chihuly did not think the San Salute installation was as visually successful as some of the other installations, the Chandelier commanded, at least for a brief time, a remarkable, highly-visible location at the entrance to the Grand Canal.110

By the opening date of the Venezia Aperto Vetro in Venice, neighborhoods around and across from San Marco and along the Grand Canal were dotted with Chandeliers. The Chihuly Over Venice project was most visible along the Grand Canal, especially at night when the Chandeliers, lighted and glowing, were shown to their best advantage. In addition to the orange Chandelier at the Pescheria, a 1,300-pound colorless, rock crystal-like Chandelier, blown at Waterford, occupied the corte del Remer, a private garden shared by several palazzos facing onto the busy Grand Canal across from the Rialto markets. A small and pleasant paved square planted with a few trees, the Remer garden opened off of a narrow alley leading from a side street in the neighborhood of the Rialto Bridge, and it was one of the few garden installations accessible to the public. Other impressive sights along the Grand Canal included the tremendous 2,800-pound royal blue Waterford Chandelier installed in the garden of the Palazzo Stern, clearly visible from the Accademia Bridge, one of Venice's main pedestrian thoroughfares, and the burning red Monterrey Chandelier in the garden of the Palazzo Balbi-Valier, with its unusual, beret-shaped, textured elements appearing to have melted in a tall heap over the Chandelier’s metal support structure.

Several of the Chandeliers were sited in public squares (called campos in Venice), such as the small, purple-pink mirrored Chandelier from Monterrey suspended inside an archway of the campo San Maurizio near Santo Stefano in San Marco; or the Mexican, forest-green mirrored Chandelier hung in a tree at the campiello Barbaro, a leafy spot near the museum of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Dorsoduro. The last Chandelier to be placed was the vivid, reddish orange sculpture (also blown in Mexico) that was installed over a canal at the Ponte Duodo, near San Maurizio. This location was one of the first conceived by Chihuly:

Initially, I had an image of a Chandelier hanging over a bridge and a couple of Italian ladies stopping to talk on the bridge. That they might talk about it and tell other people about it. I imagined them liking it. I hope they do.111

Indeed, local residents and tourists, many of whom knew nothing about glass, Chihuly’s project, or the Aperto, were attracted by the Chandeliers, recognizing them as some kind of artistic statement. Even though maps of the Chihuly Over Venice locations were not widely available, visitors questioned at various public, outdoor sites seemed to appreciate the scope of the project and many were interested in devoting their time to finding as many of the sculptures as they could. In the meantime, the hundreds of glass professionals and enthusiasts who descended on Venice for the Venezia Aperto Vetro made tours, by boat and foot, of the outdoor Chandelier sites as well as the indoor Chandeliers (both blown in Seattle) at the Galleria Marina Barovier, in the neighborhood of San Samuele, and at the Palazzo Ducale in San Marco.

The Palazzo Ducale installation—an immense, colorless Chandelier planted, rather than hung, on a metal structure beneath a capacious, 18th-century-style chandelier made by the Muranese firm of Galliano Ferro—was Chihuly’s contribution to the Aperto’s feature of international works by 26 acknowledged glass “masters." Of all the Chandeliers, the Palazzo Ducale installation was the artist's most pointed salute to Venice as the grand city of glass. Curling into, and intertwined with, the hanging glass crystals of the Ferro fixture, Chihuly's Chandelier paid a deeply-felt tribute to the past of glass and to the leading role played by Venice, Murano and its glassmakers in the American studio glass movement.112 At the same time, the irrepressible exuberance of the Chandelier affirmed the energy and creative power of the present.

Beauty is a vain, doubtful good; A shining glass that fadeth suddenly; A flower that dies when first it begins to bud; A brittle glass that's broken presently. William Shakespeare113

The impact of Chihuly Over Venice cannot be immediately assessed although it undoubtedly classifies, and will be appreciated in the future, as a historic event in glass, in art, and as a shining legacy to the history of glass in Venice. It will be remembered not only for its beauty but for its ambition, its monumental scale, its independent spirit, its collaborations and teamwork, its drama, its fantasy, its invention, and the challenge of its successful completion. In Renaissance Venice, the best glass masters cultivated these same qualities, qualities which are absent wherever commerce dictates art and whenever spontaneity and marvel cease to inspire. Chihuly Over Venice is not only a tribute to Venice, the spiritual home of glass. It is a celebration of those qualities—ambition, independence, invention, drama, and fantasy—that lie at the heart of all artistic achievement.

Tina Oldknow is Curator of Modern Glass at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York.


  1. Dale Chihuly, statement issued by Chihuly Studio, September, 1996; and Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Over Venice, KCTS video documentary, 1996.
  2. Jan Morris, The World of Venice, Harcourt Brace & Co., San Diego, New York & London, 1993. (First published 1960), pp. 18-19. My thanks to William Warmus for this reference.
  3. Max Ongaro, The Ducal Palace of Venice, Messrs. Borin, Dal Poz & Co., Venice, 1923, pp. 5-6; John Boardman, Jasper Griffin, and Oswyn Murray (eds.), The Roman World, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1988, pp. 404-405; Guiseppe Mazzoti, Palladian and Other Venetian Villas, Carlo Bestetti Edizioni d’ Arte, Rome, 1966, p. 7; and Paul N. Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY, 1958, p. 10.
  4. Mazzoti, Palladian and Other Venetian Villas, p. 7. For the names of the islands: Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 10; and Lino Tagliapietra, interview with the author, August, 1996. Malamocco the island is not the same as the present town of Malamocco on Lido.
  5. Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 10; Michelangelo Muraro and André Grabar, Treasures of Venice, (James Emmons, trans.), Editions Skira, Geneva, 1963, p. 105.
  6. Malamocco has now become legend, generating local speculation and interest much like the lost continent of Atlantis has seized the public imagination, albeit on a smaller scale. Ongaro, The Ducal Palace of Venice, pp. 5-6; Morris, The World of Venice, p. 290; and Lino Tagliapietra, interview.
  7. Ongaro, The Ducal Palace of Venice, pp. 5-6; Muraro and Grabar, Treasures of Venice, p. 77.
  8. The relics of St. Mark, first housed in the Palazzo Ducale, were stolen from Alexandria, in Egypt. Jan Morris claims that “two pious merchants from Torcello” brought the relics from Egypt to Venice. Morris, The World of Venice, p. 260.
  9. Morris, The World of Venice, p. 21; also p. 156.
  10. Mazzoti, Palladian and Other Venetian Villas, p. 7
  11. Robert Hewison, Ruskin and Venice, J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY, 1978, p. 8.
  12. Attila Dorigato, MuranoGlassMuseum (Michael Langley, trans.), Electa, Milan, 1986, p. 18.
  13. Rosa Barovier Mentasti, Il Vetro Veneziano,Electa, Milan, 1982, p. 9.
  14. Rosa Barovier Mentasti et al., Mille Anni di Arte del Vetro a Venezia, Albrizzi Editore, Venice, 1982, p. 15; Hugh Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, British Museum, London, 1979, p. 9.
  15. Byzantine mosaicists are known to have been living in Venice: one later account, dated 1153, mentions a Greek master mosaicist by the name of Marco Greco Indriomeni. Barovier Mentasti, Il Vetro Veneziano, p. 12 (after Zecchin); also Dorigato, Murano Glass Museum, p. 15; and Barovier Mentasti et al., Mille Anni di Arte del Vetro a Venezia, p. 15. Dominicus’ profession is assumed to have been that of a glassmaker since the term fiola [vial] referred--as it does today--to a type of rounded glass bottle with a long neck.
  16. Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, pp. 10-11.
  17. Muraro and Grabar, Treasures of Venice, pp.78-79, 107; Morris, The World of Venice, p. 147; and Ada Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, G. P. Putnam Sons, New York, 1975, p. 54, 56. A popular summer resort for Venetians from the 15th century on, Murano was about an hour's ride, by gondola, from Venice. On fine summer evenings, observed the 19th century philosopher John Ruskin, the lagoon between Venice and Murano was thick with gondolas. Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 56. The Great Council included the Senate, the College, and, later, the Council of Ten (established in 1310), all chaired by the Doge who was elected for life (albeit at an advanced age). The Senate was the policy-forming arm, the College formulated the Senate's business and saw to its execution, and the Council of Ten (usually 25 people or so) were responsible for state security and the handling of confidential diplomacy. Jane Martineau and Charles Hope, The Genius of Venice 1500-1600, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1983, p. 13
  18. Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 9.
  19. Luigi Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano, Vol. III, Arsenale Editrice, Venice, 1990, p. 133; Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 10; and Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 11.
  20. Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), p. 133 ; Luigi Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano, Vol. II, Arsenale Editrice, Venice, 1989, p. 385; and Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, pp. 53-54.
  21. Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, pp. 53-54, 57; Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 11; and Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), p. 400. The Zecchin volumes include numerous illustrations of early paintings depicting glass.
  22. These fragments, excavated in 1982 from the foundations of a house in Foster Lane, are now housed in the Museum of London. Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), pp. 7, 397, 399; and Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 11.
  23. Dan Klein and Ward Lloyd (eds.), The History of Glass, Orbis, London, 1984, p. 62.
  24. Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 11; Robert Schmidt, Das Glas, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin & Leipzig, 1922, p. 63; and Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 10.
  25. David Jacoby, “Raw Materials for the Glass Industries of Venice and the Terraferma, about 1370-1460,” Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 35, 1993, p. 78; Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 13.
  26. From C. Merrett's 1662 translation of Antonio Neri's L’Arte Vetraria, published in Florence in 1612. Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 11.
  27. Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), pp. 8, 133, 397; Barovier Mentasti et al., Mille Anni di Arte del Vetro a Venezia, p. 18; and Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 11.
  28. Jacoby, Journal of Glass Studies, pp. 71, 82; and Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 11.
  29. Jacoby, Journal of Glass Studies, pp. 71, 72, 85; Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. II), p. 385; and Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), p. 397
  30. In 1384 the Venetian Senate had officially banned the export of Levantine ashes from Venice to other glassmaking centers. Because of Venice’s trading relationship with the Levant, they could acquire the ash for much less than any of their competitors, making it significantly cheaper for their competitors to import the ashes from Venice rather than directly from the Levant. Jacoby, Journal of Glass Studies, pp. 67-68, 71-72, 84. For penalties, see Jacoby, p. 80-81.
  31. A Milanese traveler, visiting Jerusalem in 1480, noted in his journal that enameled glass “vases” from the Venetian island of Murano had been commissioned by officials in Damascus. Nearly a century later, Islamic-style Venetian glass was still in demand. Renaissance-period documents record that the Venetian ambassador at Constantinople, Marcantonio Barbaro, received an order for a number of Venetian mosque lamps made in the Islamic style. W.B. Honey, Glass, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1946. pp. 53-54; and Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 12.
  32. Luigi Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano, Vol. I, Arsenale Editrice, Venice, 1987, p. 361; Barovier Mentasti, Il Vetro Veneziano, p. 15; and Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 57.
  33. Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), p. 397-398; Jacoby, Journal of Glass Studies, p. 83; Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers,p. 65 ; Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 50; Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. I), p. 364; and Dorigato, MuranoGlassMuseum, p. 35.
  34. Muraro and Grabar, Treasures of Venice, p. 120.
  35. Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, pp. 57, 61.
  36. Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 49
  37. Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), p. 397. Jacoby believes that cristallo was invented earlier than 1450-1460 because of the proven earlier use of the special, white pebbles (silica) from the Ticino River. He believes the glass recipe was refined by Barovier who changed the proportions of the batch or possibly purified the ashes. Jacoby, Journal of Glass Studies, pp. 74-75, 88. Dorigato mentions that early cristallo was prone to glass disease because the lime, a stabilizing ingredient, was purified out. Dorigato, MuranoGlassMuseum, p. 20.
  38. Klein and Lloyd, The History of Glass, p. 74; Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 26; Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), p. 397; Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 65; and Jacoby, Journal of Glass Studies, p. 89.
  39. Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. I), p. 365; and Albert Hartshorne, Antique Drinking Glasses, Brussel & Brussel,New York, 1968, p. 27, note 1.
  40. Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 17.
  41. Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 14; Jacoby, Journal of Glass Studies, p.89; Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), p. 132, 400; and Klein and Lloyd, The History of Glass, p. 78. Regarding women glassmakers, there is mention of an Elena de Lando in 1447. Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 26.
  42. Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 49-50; Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. I), p. 364; and Dorigato, MuranoGlassMuseum, p. 35.
  43. Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 50; and Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. II), p. 389.
  44. Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 23; and Dorigato, Murano Glass Museum, p. 25.
  45. Muranese craftsmen were apparently the only people in Europe who knew how to make a glass mirror: in 1507 the da Gallo brothers applied for a twenty-five-year exclusive on mirror production and Venetians continued to dominate the industry for the next 150 years or so, until French glasshouses started their own production. Morris, The World of Venice, p. 57; Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 54; Honey, Glass, p. 58; and Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), p. 400. Before glass mirrors were invented, people used mirrors made of highly polished metal such as brass or bronze.
  46. Jacoby, Journal of Glass Studies, p. 76
  47. Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 10; and Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 21.
  48. Jacoby, Journal of Glass Studies, p. 70.
  49. Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 57; and Lois S. Dubin, The History of Beads, Abrams, New York, 1987, p. 111.
  50. Martineau and Hope, The Genius of Venice 1500-1600, p. 13; and Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 56
  51. Jan Morris, The World of Venice, p. 267
  52. Daru, in the Histoire de la Republique de Venise, reported: “The Inquisition of State, by the 26th Article of its Statutes of 1454 ordered that if any workman of any kind should transport his craft to a foreign country to the injury of the Republic and refuse to return, an emissary should be commissioned to slay him.” Apparently, two glassmakers found working for the emperor Leopold (1658-1705) were killed; there must have been some political angle as well since by 1600, the Venetian government's interest in pursuing expatriate glassworkers had waned. Hartshorne, Antique Drinking Glasses, p. 29; and Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 21. Lino Tagliapietra remembers hearing that one glassworker was said to have been killed in Paris--apparently this instance also involved some political intrigue. Lino Tagliapietra, interview.
  53. Jacoby, Journal of Glass Studies, p. 90; and Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 11.
  54. Hartshorne, Antique Drinking Glasses, pp. 399, 401; and Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 96. Apparently Verzelini had a competitor’s furnace “defaced.” Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 78.
  55. The contemporary Muranese glass master, Lino Tagliapietra, remembers: My best teacher was “Nane” Ferro. An old man, nice, very open, intelligent. When he found out I was coming to the States to teach, he told me, “Your experience is your life but don’t teach too much. Because what you have learned is not just yours; it is part of a tradition and it's not right that you give it to everybody.” I said, "But everything we know comes from somebody else. “My education with Ferro was a little unusual, but it was typical too. Lino Tagliapietra, interview.
  56. From Dello Specchio di Scientia Universale. Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 4.
  57. Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 94. Just six years or so after the invention of chalcedony and cristallo glasses, an inventory of Charles the Bold (dated 1467) lists a goblet in imitation jasper. Perrot, Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 17.
  58. Gareth Roberts, The Mirror of Alchemy, The British Library, London, 1994, p. 55.
  59. In the medieval treatise De Coloribus et Artibus Romanum, written by the monk Heraclius, a semi-magical recipe is given for glass combining material from the ancient Roman historian Pliny [the Elder] with recipes including "fat worms and the blood of fasting goats." Honey, Glass, p. 37.
  60. Roberts, The Mirror of Alchemy, p. 55.
  61. In a nutshell, alchemical philosophy is more or less based on the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle's concept that all matter is composed of four elements--earth, air, fire, and water--in different ratios. Therefore, materials could be transmuted by altering their ratios, which is what alchemists attempted to do. This approach is not so far off from today's transmutation of materials through molecular rearrangement.
  62. References to “glass” in ancient texts (including the Bible) even confuse glass with precious and semi-precious stones. Honey, Glass, pp. 2, note 1, 37.
  63. Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 66; and Rosa Barovier-Mentasti, "Introduction" to L’Arte Vetrariaby Antonio Neri (reprint of first edition [Florence, 1612]), Edizioni Il Polifilo, Milan, 1980, p. LI.
  64. Barovier Mentasti, “Introduction” to L’Arte Vetraria, pp. XLII-XLIII, LIX.
  65. Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. II), p. 389; and Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. I),p. 364.
  66. From De la pirotechnia, 1540. Barovier Mentasti, “Introduction” to L’Arte Vetraria, p. L.
  67. Pietro Aretino was a friend of the painter, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio). Martineau and Hope, The Genius of Venice 1500-1600, p. 15.
  68. The Venezia Aperto Vetro was financed by the Assessorato alla Cultura of the city of Venice and Japanese glass collector, Sadao Ukai; and also by the 87 artists who participated at their own cost in the exposition at the Museo Correr and the 26 “master” artists who exhibited at the Palazzo Ducale. The Museo Vetrario on Murano hosted an international student exhibition.
  69. Attila Dorigato and Dan Klein, Venezia Aperto Vetro: International New Glass, Arsenale Editrice, Venice, 1996, p. 11; Sadao Ukai, remarks at the opening of the Venezia Aperto Vetro, September 12, 1996.
  70. The Venezia Aperto Vetro, an international exhibition of contemporary art in glass, is planned to be a biennial event, alternating with the Venice Biennale.
  71. Muraro and Grabar, Treasures of Venice, p. 96.
  72. Gianfranco Mossetto (Assessore alla Cultura of the city of Venice), Giandomenico Romanelli (Director, Musei Civici, Venice) and Sadao Ukai (President, Ukai Co. Ltd., Tokyo), with Gianfranco Alberttini (Venice); Marino Barovier (Venice); Susanne K. Frantz (Corning, New York); Umberto Franzoi (Venice); Uta M. Klotz (Frechen, Germany); Giovanni Moretti (Venice); Jean-Luc Olivé (Paris); Giorgio Oniga (Venice); Sylva Petrovà (Prague); Helmut Ricke (Düsseldorf); David Whitehouse (Corning, New York); and Tsuneo Yoshimizu (Tokyo).
  73. Dorigato and Klein, Venezia Aperto Vetro: International New Glass, p. 7.
  74. Ibid, p. 13.
  75. Francesca M. Caotorta, “Trasparenze sulla laguna,” Il Sole, September 15, 1996, p. 36.
  76. Dorigato, MuranoGlassMuseum, p. 7.
  77. David F. Grose, Toledo Museum of Art: Early Ancient Glass, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, 1991, p. 381; Barovier Mentasti et al., Mille Anni di Arte del Vetro a Venezia, p. 49; and Dorigato, Murano Glass Museum, p. 7. By 1773, the glassmaking population had already dropped to 383, ten percent of what it was in its heyday. In 1810, all guilds in Venice, including the glassmaker’s guild, were dissolved. Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 68.
  78. Barovier Mentasti et al., Mille Anni di Arte del Vetro a Venezia, p. 49 and Grose, Toledo Museum of Art: Early Ancient Glass, p. 381. Salviati and the Compagnia Venezia e Murano were especially determined to replicate ancient mosaic glass techniques. Although their intent was not to deceive the public and their ancient styles routinely exhibited at trade fairs, the Muranese trade newspaper, La Voce di Murano (founded by Zanetti in 1867) reported that the pseudo-ancient glasses were being sold as genuine antiquities by certain unscrupulous dealers. Grose, ToledoMuseum of Art: Early Ancient Glass, p. 382; and Dorigato, MuranoGlassMuseum, p. 7.
  79. See Marina Barovier, Attila Dorigato, and Rosa Barovier Mentasti, Il Vetro di Murano alle Biennali 1895-1972, Leonardo Arte, Milan, 1995.
  80. Molten glass first became available for American artists and craftspeople to explore outside of a factory setting in 1962, when small furnaces suitable for individual use were developed and techniques to hand-work the material identified. The resulting burst of artistic activity was quickly termed the studio glass movement, a movement that defined itself not by philosophy or style, as most artistic movements, but by medium and technique. The movement was not ideologically-dominated by a specific personality or centered at any one place, but consisted of a small, yet open, geographically-shifting populace.
  81. Ron Glowen and Dale Chihuly, Venetians: Dale Chihuly, Twin Palms Publishers, Altadena, Calif., 1989, unpaginated.
  82. Hewison, Ruskin and Venice, p. 31.
  83. Ibid.
  84. Glowen and Chihuly, Venetians: Dale Chihuly, unpaginated.
  85. Dale Chihuly in Barbaralee Diamonstein, Handmade in America: Conversations with Fourteen Craftsmasters, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1983, p. 40.
  86. Dale Chihuly, fax to William Warmus, May 23, 1996.
  87. Ibid.
  88. Dale Chihuly, fax to William Warmus, May 22, 1996; and Lino Tagliapietra, interview.
  89. Speaking of Chihuly's work related to the Venezia Aperto Vetro, “l’aspetto più creativo,” reported Rome's Giornale dell'Arte, “è affidato alla fantasia di Dale Chihuly che appende fantasiosi candelabri a forma di grappoli di frutti esotici sopra i canali veneziani.” Lidia Panzeri, Il Giornale dell’ Arte (Le Mostre), Rome, September, 1996, p. 19.
  90. Chihuly fax, May 22, 1996.
  91. Muranese firms, for example, are the only chandelier makers capable of making the impressively large special commissions such as the 60-ton chandelier in Toronto, Canada made by Venini Glass. “In some fields,” notes Paul Perrot, “Venetian glass remained supreme. Her richly engraved mirrors and the colorful luxury of her chandeliers remained in demand and assured a steady, if limited, market.” Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, p. 26.
  92. Lino Tagliapietra, interview.
  93. Barovier Mentasti et al., Mille Anni di Arte del Vetro a Venezia, p. 45; and Gudmund Boesen, Venetian Glass at Rosenborg Castle, G.E.C. Gads Forlag, Copenhagen, 1960, pp. 76-77. Glass disease, or decomposition, can be caused by a chemically unstable glass batch or by environmental factors (pollution). Symptoms are crizzling (a network of fine lines which eventually causes the glass to cloud) or “weeping” (the release of water that has penetrated into the glass which will also cause clouding) and both can destroy the glass. Weathering (for example, from burial) can alter the color and transparency of the glass and cause flaking, or devitrification.
  94. The Fondamenta Briati in Dorsoduro is named after him. Zecchin, Vetro e Vetrai di Murano (Vol. III), p. 402; Hartshorne, Antique Drinking Glasses, p. 31; and Klein and Lloyd, The History of Glass, p. 119.
  95. Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 68. In France, during the 17th century, rock crystals were hung on brass and bronze chandeliers and by the end of the century molded glass elements were being used as well. The glass chandelier, however, was an 18th-century development. While 16th and 17th century examples are known, the form was only fully developed after 1740. Boesen, Venetian Glass at Rosenborg Castle, p. 79; and Klein and Lloyd, The History of Glass, p. 119.
  96. Lino Tagliapietra, interview.
  97. This description is from Jan Morris, The World of Venice, pp. 72-73. It is not surprising that the Venetians were notorious for their indulgent ways and extreme entertainments. As early as 1299, the Venetian government passed laws restricting ostentation and “excessive ornaments.” These attempts to control the Venetians, however, were never successful, and the laws always managed, somehow, to be repealed. Ibid, p. 56.
  98. Boesen, Venetian Glass at Rosenborg Castle, pp. 63, 65, 67- 68.
  99. Ibid, p. 78; and Polak, Glass: Its Traditions and Its Makers, p. 68.
  100. Boesen, Venetian Glass at Rosenborg Castle, p. 72; and Tait, The Golden Age of Venetian Glass, p. 95.
  101. Boesen, Venetian Glass at Rosenborg Castle, pp. 66, 71.
  102. Chihuly fax, 5/23/96; and Chihuly,KCTS video documentary.
  103. Diamonstein, Handmade in America: Conversations with Fourteen Craftsmasters, p. 42.
  104. Dale Chihuly, lecture, Tacoma Community College, Tacoma, WA, February, 1994.
  105. Karen Chambers in Dale Chihuly, Chihuly: Color, Glass and Form, p. 24.
  106. Michael Heizer in Gilles A. Tiberghien, Land Art, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1995, p. 277.
  107. Emile Gallé, Ecrits pour l'art... (1884-1889), quoted in William Warmus, Emile Gallé: Dreams into Glass, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, 1984, p. 17.
  108. A deconsecrated cloister and former Benedictine monastery, Sant’ Aponal (dedicated to St. Apollinarius) is now the Museo Diocesano dell' Arte Sacra. The only Romanesque building in Venice, it was founded in the 11th century by a family from Ravenna and completely rebuilt in the 15th century. Information about Chihuly Over Venice sites comes from two guidebooks: Alberto Giulio Bernstein et al., Venice (Knopf Guides Series), Albert A. Knopf, New York, 1993; and Susie Boutlon, Christopher Catling et al., Venice and the Veneto (Eyewitness Travel Guides), Dorling Kindersley, London, 1995.
  109. The church of Santa Maria della Salute, in the campo San Salute (sainted health), was built in honor of the Virgin to commemorate the end, in 1630, of a devastating bubonic plague. The church is supported by over one million oak pilings. The word campo literally means field (although it is understood as a square), a reference to Venice’s earlier days when the city was dotted with open, green spaces.
  110. Chihuly's crew later installed a series of pointed, red glass shafts--nicknamed “stingers” by Chihuly--nearby on the Rio delle Torricelle.
  111. Robin Updike, “Chihuly Over Venice: Audacity or Genius?” The Seattle Times, September 8, 1996, p. M10
  112. Some Venetians feel that the Palazzo Ducale Chandelier paid too much homage to a time that is old and past (and which maybe they would like to be done with). It is true that Americans are interested in their roots and are accepting of what they owe to the past, perhaps because they have never felt trapped by their own traditions.
  113. Eugene E. Brussell (ed.), A Dictionary of Quotable Definitions, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1970, p. 42.

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