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Chihuly Silvered

Chihuly Silvered

2002 | Jennifer H. Opie
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Dale Chihuly arrived in Venice in 1968 as the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship and already a talented, practicing glassblower. On acquiring the fellowship, Chihuly wrote to several hundred glassworks on Murano. Only one responded positively. Ludovico Diaz de Santillana, director of the Venini glass company and son-in-law of the founder, Paolo Venini, invited Chihuly to spend three weeks in the factory. For the first American glassblower to receive such an invitation, it was a remarkable opportunity. It was even more remarkable considering that for centuries a tradition of secrecy and protectionism characterized the Venetian glass industry. Chihuly was fortunate: Venini was one of the most progressive and open-minded of the Muranese glassworks, partly due to its relatively short and exceptional history. It was established in the 1920s not by a local glassmaking family but by a Milanese lawyer, Venini.1

Beyond this entirely practical tradition, the glitter of Venetian glass and the heat, noise, and sheer bravura of the Muranese hotshops were undoubtedly seductive, chiming with Chihuly’s own youthful hunger for ideas and his ambition to master so demanding a material.

Even so, Chihuly did not blow glass there. Instead he watched, absorbing every detail of the Venetian glassmaking process, especially the teamwork. In this highly intensive craft industry, everyone plays a vital part in a closely structured workforce at each individual furnace, and Chihuly learned this process very well.2 Beyond this entirely practical tradition, the glitter of Venetian glass and the heat, noise, and sheer bravura of the Muranese hotshops were undoubtedly seductive, chiming with Chihuly’s own youthful hunger for ideas and his ambition to master so demanding a material. Nevertheless, by his own admission, he took some time to settle there: “I was too intimidated to blow glass myself, because I was such a lousy glassblower compared to the greatest that were there.”3 He added, “I went to Venice in this funk of a depression. Fortunately, they were being offered a commission for a piece of sculpture in Ferrara. That really wasn’t their bailiwick, so I said let me do a scale model...So I worked for a couple of weeks on making a model using plastic and blown glass balls and neon...They got the commission...Of course...that put me in a great position in the factory, and I got a little studio and access to all the glassblowers and the designers.”4

While in Venice, Chihuly also used his time to visit other glass workshops, where he observed beadwork, lampworking, and, at the SALIR works, mirror making.5 Whether or not Chihuly was already fully aware of the long history of mirrored glass on his return to the United States, he has since developed a keen interest and now owns a number of Venetian mirrors. The aesthetic effect of combining silver with glass and the practical skills needed to do so took hold of his imagination and aroused his curiosity. Looking back at the history of glass itself, he has cited the influence of techniques and design ideas in twentieth-century Italian works from the 1920s and 1930s, the so-called Art Deco period. But in engaging directly with silvered glass, he took on the mantle of a much longer and weightier history.


Strictly speaking, the term “silvered glass” describes a type developed in the nineteenth century. More generally, it covers a wide variety of techniques and applications. The primary purposes of silvering were to provide a practical, flat mirroring surface on a two-dimensional object or, when applied to three-dimensional forms, to mimic actual silver. The need for a reflective surface was met over many centuries by polished stone, volcanic glass (obsidian), or a variety of metals including bronze, copper, tin, and silver, as well as glass in combination with these other materials.

Chihuly’s curiosity was undoubtedly sparked by his early encounters with Venetian mirror makers, but once piqued his interest in the process was never going to be straightforward. There are no Chihuly mirrors; instead he has pursued very different aims. Nevertheless, the history of the art of mirror making is a dramatic one, and in establishing the context of Chihuly’s own contribution, it is one worth telling.

A craft guild for glass was formed by 1224 in Venice, with fines and punishments exacted for infringements of its regulations. The oldest extant statute for the guild, the Capitulare de fiolariis, was drawn up in 1271, and in 1295 further restrictions were added forbidding the practice of glassmaking outside Murano and, equally punishable, taking raw materials beyond Venice.6 The earliest mirror production in Venice was probably at the end of the fifteenth century, though trade in glass mirrors, or of glass for mirrors, was already common by then via the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, headquarters of the German-speaking merchants in the city.7 The earlier history of mirror making is still relatively patchy and uncertain. A record exists of delivery to Genoa of best-quality glass for mirror making from glass manufacturers in Germany in 1215, but it does not locate them.8 They may have been in southern Germany itself, in Switzerland, or in Lorraine. There is evidence of flat mirrors possibly in the early fourteenth century, but more commonly glass for mirrors was cut from relatively large blown bubbles and was therefore convex.9 The backing was probably lead, although an amalgam of tinfoil and quicksilver may also have been used.10 A crucial event behind Venice’s rapid domination of the industry during the fifteenth century was the development, traditionally credited to Angelo Barovier (d. 1460), of a thinner, clearer glass in about 1450. Barovier demonstrated this marvelous new glass, called cristallo, to the court of Francesco Sforza in Milan in 1455.11 This material’s significant reduction in impurities reduced bubbling and cloudiness, thus improving its potential for mirroring, but one other limitation remained. For a further two centuries, mirror sizes were dictated by the limits of hand-blowing. During the seventeenth century, this limit was overcome by matching, edge to edge, several mirrored-glass plates to make one wall-sized panel.

The most celebrated use of mirrored glass is in the Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) at Versailles, the palace built for the Sun King, Louis XIV (1638–1715). Designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646–1708) and built from 1678 to 1684, the nearly 250-foot-long gallery is lined by seventeen windows overlooking the gardens on one side, and on the opposite walls by seventeen mirrors composed of 578 panels.12 These were hand-blown in the Venetian manner but made in Paris by the Compagnie du Noyer. Financed by Nicolas du Noyer, the company was awarded royal patronage and a monopoly in 1665; as the Manufacture Royale des Glaces de Miroirs, it was to compete directly with Venice, as part of a drive to improve French arts and commerce. It is known that a number of glassblowers from Murano were employed for a short time to instruct the French in glassblowing skills.13 (Incidentally, the history of this period provides the sole documented evidence of an assassin hired to track down a renegade glassworker.)14 The first unblemished mirrors were made in 1666, but it was several years before production was reliable. However, by 1688, a rival French glassworks at Orléans, Compagnie Thévart, had transformed the mirror-making industry by developing a method of poured cast glass, leading to the making of much larger panels.15 By the end of the century, the French were unrivaled in commercial mirror production.

The fashion for glazed, mirrored walls was widespread in the 1680s. Many European royal palaces and grander private houses boasted mirrored halls and rooms. In 1687, the Swedish architect Count Nicodemus Tessin the Younger (1654–1728) saw the mirrored-glass ceiling in the closet of the princess of Orange at the Dutch pleasure palace at Honselersdijk.16 Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark visited Versailles in 1693, and as King Frederick IV he ordered a “mirror cabinet” for the royal palace of Rosenborg in Copenhagen. His mirrored room was not entirely innocent. Visitors saw themselves reflected in ceiling, walls, and floor; for ladies, in their wide skirts and accompanied by gentlemen or the king himself, the mirrored floor was perhaps disconcerting, but it was scarcely an accident. Frederick’s private collection of erotica was kept in the adjacent room. Frederick visited Venice in 1709 and was presented with a remarkable collection of glass by the Venetian senate. His glass cabinet, 1713–14, was modeled on one containing a massed display of porcelain he had seen at Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin, where mirrored walls multiply the precious collection.

Nevertheless, the Sun King’s Versailles remained a standard for its magnificence. After visiting Versailles in 1867, King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845–1886) was desperate to re-create his own version, complete with mirrored hall. He tried first at the site of a hunting lodge, Linderhof, from 1868; then, after a further visit to Versailles, he began an entirely new building in 1874. With more appropriate ambition, the much larger and spectacularly expensive palace of Herrenchiemsee, with a hall of mirrors rivaling that at Versailles, occupied Ludwig until his death in 1886, though even then it was still incomplete.

Apart from mirrored walls, hanging mirrors matched fashionable furniture styles from Baroque to Rococo. In royal palaces, huge mirrors were framed in silver; in less grand surroundings, frames were made of wood or strips of mirrored glass, cut in lozenges or as “strapwork.” In the nineteenth century, when glass companies such as Salviati were seeking to reinvigorate the Venetian industry by reworking earlier styles, mirrors were surrounded by fanciful polychrome glass decoration. This type is still made in Murano today, by companies such as Fratelli Barbini and SALIR.17 Elsewhere, the use of silver and other metals as backing, to enhance or to create a glittering or reflective surface, was given fresh direction by glass factories looking for new ideas for decorative wares, as well as for scientific use. Throughout the century, the use of silver and silver-like effects became more ambitious and more often applied to three-dimensional work. Some of these provide added insight into the history and a context for Chihuly’s ideas and experiments. Embedding his work within this context confirms his importance as an independent and knowledgeable innovator.

During the nineteenth century, the pace quickened for developments in technology, and the term “silvered” came into use. Processes for measuring and depositing silvering (silver nitrate) were developed in the 1830s and 1840s by the celebrated chemists Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac (1778–1850) in France and Justus von Liebig (1803–1873) in Germany. In France, Jean-Bernard-Léon Foucault (1819–1868), famous for Foucault’s pendulum (demonstrating earth’s rotation), introduced a means of depositing an ultrathin layer of silvering on the front surface of glass, thus making the first optical-quality mirrors for use in telescopes. In parallel with these scientific developments, silvered glass was also becoming popular in decorative production. Among the most familiar uses are decorative mold-blown glass balls and stars made as tree decorations for Christmas and as devotional figures. The long tradition of warding off evil spirits (or enlisting the help of good spirits) by suspending “witches’ balls” of colored blown glass in cottage windows took on added potency with the introduction of silvered examples. In eastern Germany, the town of Lauscha has specialized in lampwork since the sixteenth century. In the mid-nineteenth century, its silvered glass ornaments were exported across Continental Europe and to Britain and the United States. The first illustration of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children gathered around a Christmas tree bedecked with such ornaments at Windsor Castle appeared in 1848, confirming the popularity of this new fashion.18

A process of making double-walled silvered glass was patented in London by Edward Varnish and Frederick Hale Thompson in 1849 and attracted much interest at the Great Exhibition of 1851, in the Crystal Palace. The double-walled interior was coated with a solution of silver nitrate and glucose through a hole in the base, then sealed to prevent the silver from oxidizing. It offered various practical uses, but at artistic glassworks, such as James Powell’s at Whitefriars, the technique was combined with overlaid colored glass and stylishly designed wheel cutting, and the result rivaled those from Bohemian glassworks at that time. In the United States from about 1857, the Boston Silver Glass Company in East Cambridge, Massachusetts, manufactured “flint and silvered glass.”19 It subsequently joined with the nearby Sandwich works, and the combined company made silvered decorative wares, as did many of their contemporaries. Starting in the mid-1800s, there was a proliferation of decorative glass, including flat mirrored panels for bars, pubs, and hotels, on which fine engraving, wheel cutting, or molded undulations added interest.

Alongside these relatively mainstream developments, other glassmakers were pursuing rather more recherché ambitions. As far back as the first century B.C., engraved gold leaf was applied to the surface of Roman glass, reheated, and sealed by a second outer layer of glass. By the nineteenth century, a simpler version, using silver, was widely employed as a decorative device. Picked up, marvered (rolled) into the glass, and then blown to the required size and shape, the leaf was stretched and scattered into shining particles, adding richness and suggesting luxury. In revisiting their own history, several of the Muranese glass companies, such as those of Barovier and Salviati, used silver—and especially gold—to enrich vessels of all types. In Scotland, James Couper & Sons used the technique in the 1880s in vessel forms, marketed as “Clutha” ware, by the influential designer Christopher Dresser (1834–1904). Dresser’s interest in asymmetrical, organic shapes was a precursor to Chihuly’s own work. In England’s glassmaking center, Stourbridge, Stevens & Williams produced a short-lived series of products using a technique they called Silveria. Launched in 1900, it was a risky procedure that involved enclosing silver foil between two layers of glass, then reheating and blowing the glass further and adding randomly trailed glass ribbons in various colors across the surface. The finished vessel-like form was often pockmarked with splits, crevices, and bubbles—all of which were part of Silveria’s character.

His silvered three-dimensional forms stand in a continuum of historical glass stretching back through the more extreme of Stevens & Williams’s Silveria to earlier nineteenth-century ornaments, but only Chihuly has used it with such extravagant panache.

All these examples—and there were more in the twentieth century—serve to demonstrate Chihuly’s central place in the long history of imaginative developments in glass technology and concept. Every large-scale Chihuly sculpture, every Chandelier or Persian Wall, is an assemblage, a scaled-up construction of many smaller hand-blown parts.20 It is a strategy that the Venetian flat mirrored-glass makers devised in the seventeenth century, but only Chihuly has applied it to blown glass and to such monumental, three-dimensional effect. His silvered three-dimensional forms stand in a continuum of historical glass stretching back through the more extreme of Stevens & Williams’s Silveria to earlier nineteenth-century ornaments, but only Chihuly has used it with such extravagant panache.

From Experiment to Silvered Series

Although Chihuly first encountered mirrored glass and the potential of silvering in Venice in 1968, his application of the technique did not emerge until some twenty years later. By then, several ideas around the very special qualities that silvering offers had been quietly germinating and were at last activated. Reflection was the first.

Perhaps the earliest real evidence of Chihuly’s manipulation of reflection was Glass Forest (1971–72), an installation of glass, neon, and argon made with his student James Carpenter, in which falling, trailing tubes of glass, landing and gathering on a floor of “black” glass, glowed with curious yellow-green-blue light.21 During the same period, he had also been floating glass bubbles on a small mud pond behind the hotshop at Pilchuck Glass School. Working with an environment, whether landscape or architectural, is central to Chihuly’s creativity, and he returns to water, the ultimate natural reflector, at any opportunity. Sometimes these are spontaneous interventions (though always recorded on film) in a natural setting, as around the glassworks at Nuutajärvi, Finland. There he launched Seal Pups and Belugas from a small wooden boat into the nearby river and suspended Chandelier groups under the wooden bridge or from overhanging trees.22 There have also been far grander, carefully planned events such as, in Britain, the garden-wide installation at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2005), which included Walla Wallas and the Thames Skiff anchored on the lake by the Victorian Palm House. Sunset Boat was moored on the lake in front of the late seventeenth-century Chatsworth House in 2006.

After Glass Forest, nearly ten years passed before Chihuly began to think about the reflecting surface as a support for floor displays of composite works. He first used sheets of black glass for installations at the Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, in the early 1980s. This was a significant event in the development of his ideas about reflection and mirroring: “He has mentioned he sees the black as a mirror or as water, like reflected light off a river.”23 Never one to avoid practicalities or, for that matter, to compromise safety, Chihuly also uses sheets of Plexiglas in the same way. He has described this as an attempt to “bring the river inside the museum,” the “river” being a reference to the seminal Nuutajärvi experience.24 A key attraction is that of multiplying the image: ten Reeds set on a black, reflective platform become twenty, as in a lake’s edge. This magical, if simple, trick was also used centuries earlier: Hardouin-Mansart brought Louis XIV’s parterre gardens into the mirrored hall at Versailles, and Frederick IV doubled his prized collection of Venetian glass at Rosenborg.25

Moving on from supporting platforms, Chihuly began to think about introducing silvering into the glass itself. Two of these new works appeared in his installations of Chandeliers over canals and in courtyards across Venice in 1996, coinciding with the international Aperto Vetro exhibition.26 Chihuly Over Venice was an ambitious project, the ultimate meeting of glass and water that Chihuly has yet achieved. He arranged for his team to blow Chandelier glass internationally at three locations: at Nuutajärvi, Finland, and Waterford, Ireland, in 1995 and at the Vitocrisa factory in Monterrey, Mexico, in 1996.27 It was in Mexico that the first Chihuly silvered glass was made. He was already using silver and gold within the body of the glass, as had nineteenth-century makers, but the next idea was to introduce a silvery wash over the inside surface.

While the Chihuly team set up in Monterrey, he visited the nearby glass museum, the Museo del Vidrio, noticing especially some nineteenth-century silvered candelabras, described as “poor man’s silver.” There and then, a number of glass parts were silvered by a local artisan. “In Monterrey...the colors of the Mexican Chandeliers were particularly intense, in part by reason of an old Mexican technique...: silver nitrate was used to line many of the parts...A bold red Chandelier, with mirrored balls and long tendrils, was hung in the Governor’s Plaza, in celebration of Monterrey’s four hundredth anniversary.”28 A new Chihuly line was under way, and a silvering studio was set up in Tacoma. The procedure is relatively simple, with the silver nitrate solution provided by the manufacturer as a two-part mix. After cleaning, and a mild acid etching to form a bond on the surface to be silvered, the solution is swirled across the surface and then sealed and left to dry. It is a variation of the nineteenth-century Varnish and Thompson patent, and Chihuly’s work is complicated only by the requirement to mask out the areas to be left unsilvered.

Chihuly Silvered

Chihuly Over Venice included two Chandeliers, one fully silvered and one partly silvered, in forest green and purple pink. Since then, he and Team Chihuly have used the technique for many commissions internationally including his Garden Cycle, combining silvered components with colored ones. Hornets, Floats, Reeds, and Fiori have all been given the silvered treatment. Silvered Polyvitro (a plastic material) has been used as a practical alternative to glass for some site-specific installations where size and potential vulnerability are an issue. The more than forty-foot-high Crystal Mountain, shown at Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem, is the most spectacular example to date.

Then, in 2009, he decided to make a new series solely dedicated to, and celebrating, silvering. Chihuly has often returned to a “closed” series five or even ten years later, when he has a new approach in mind. The Venetians have been especially productive in this respect. He has said, “I like the way they look with the silver; it changes them dramatically.”29 Two shows resulted from this project: Mercurio and Chihuly Silvered.30 This was yet another significant new direction, one not explored by any other artist. It takes daring to adopt a technique that has some disconcerting associations (“poor man’s silver”). Choosing the Venetians, begun in 1988 with Lino Tagliapietra, Chihuly matched the silvering with the most “extraordinary shapes and details...becoming ever looser and more baroque as time went on.”31 Tagliapietra is probably the most celebrated of masters working with Chihuly over the years. The Venetian maestro was left to interpret Chihuly’s ideas, and making the Venetian series was very much a collaborative project: “It is clear that Lino and Chihuly were coaxing, encouraging, and daring each other...into something new that would have been impossible for each to accomplish alone.”32 Others have played important roles in Team Chihuly. Joseph DeCamp made components for many commissions, including Chandeliers. He and Charles Parriott worked with a factory in Germany to make silvered garden balls for the Jerusalem project.33 James Mongrain led the team specifically in the blowing of the Silvered series. Mongrain is a respected artist in his own right, as are so many of Chihuly’s collaborators.

Chihuly had picked up a traditional technique and given it new life.

Chihuly never stands still, and with silvering mastered, he followed that by having the team try “obfuscating [its] inherent brightness...This fostered the idea of creating internal fields of tiny air bubbles within the actual body of the glass. Next, they experimented with dunking the hot glass gathers in cold water to create an external crackling effect, a texture which manipulates the reflective intensity of the silvering.”34 Once again, Chihuly had picked up a traditional technique and given it new life: crackled “ice glass” was made by exactly that method in sixteenth-century Venice, and it is listed in an inventory of 1528.35 There are also accounts of King Phillip II of Spain admiring it so much that in 1564 he had sixty-five examples from Venice in the royal palace of El Pardo, outside Madrid.36 These “ice glasses” also had a trail of blue glass around the rim, a Venetian technique to strengthen the fragile edge—again a foreshadowing, this time of the celebrated Chihuly “lip wrap.”37 “Crackled” glass was also investigated by Andreas Copier in Leerdam, the Netherlands, in the 1920s. Like Chihuly, Copier was drawing on both historical and contemporary Venetian glass for that technique and also for the introduction of bubbles into the body of the glass by using powdered metal oxides. In the 1930s, the French artist Maurice Marinot made richly bubbled glass, as did Kaj Franck in the 1950s at Nuutajärvi, the Finnish glassworks that is now a regular venue for Team Chihuly.

These examples of forerunners all serve to demonstrate that Chihuly is not alone. None of these techniques are easily controlled, but where Chihuly overtakes his predecessors is in orchestrating the combination of several such techniques into symphonic proportions. No other maker has attempted a mix of “ice crackle” with silver in bubbled glass, let alone on the scale that Chihuly and his team achieve. Venetians and Piccolo Venetians, Chandeliers, Stars, Mille Fiori, Ikebana, Blanket Cylinders, and Jerusalem Cylinders were all given this very special treatment. The result is a glistening cornucopia of generous, even lush forms in rich and subtle colors—white and pink, orange and purple—of reflecting, mirroring silvery sheen and of shimmering golden lights.

That Chihuly has an established place in glass history is undeniable. Fritz Dreisbach, a Seattle-based artist and Chihuly’s contemporary, has said, “Everyone is influenced by Chihuly, in one way or another.”38 One thing is certain: Chihuly’s contribution to the serious business of making art is unique. However, defining his particular significance is no easy matter, and many critics are unsure whether to suspect his evidently popular appeal or to submit to that same irresistible seduction. His major installation projects centered on landscape or water, in historical or contemporary architectural settings, are often rampantly theatrical. The luxuriant colors and the raw energy that are Chihuly’s trademarks are often compared to the paintings of Henri Matisse and Jackson Pollock. The swirling, organic forms call up comparisons with sea creatures and unruly plants. Even “The Garden of Delights...the upside-down world, or nature unhinged,” of the fifteenth-century painter Hieronymus Bosch has been invoked.39 There are as many interpretations as there are audiences.

Glass is Chihuly’s medium; his roots are in 1960s America, but it was in Venice that he first found his way forward, and it is to Venice that he returns repeatedly. In some way, almost everything he does is in homage to the decadent, sinister, beautiful city that has inspired his greatest works. “Venice...when I got there [in 1968] I didn’t know the city..., I was supposed to know Italian, but I didn’t...So I wandered around Venice from September to December. In wandering around the city, this extraordinary, magical city...actually, you know why I probably love Venice? It’s a lot like glass. It’s mysterious, it’s transparent, it’s extraordinary, you can’t understand it. You don’t know where you are.”40

Chihuly is a supremely imaginative master of technique and bravura. Extraordinary, magical glass is his stock-in-trade, and the Silvered series is among the most technically ambitious and aesthetically adventurous art of his career—so far.

My grateful thanks to Ken Clark, Reino Liefkes, Peter West, and especially Mark McDonnell for their help.


  1. Established as Cappellin Venini & Co., 1921. Venini set up separately in 1925.
  2. Susanne K. Frantz, Lino Tagliapietra in Retrospect: A Modern Renaissance in Italian Glass, exh. cat. (Tacoma: Museum of Glass; Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008), pp. 18–19 n. 27. Chihuly was allowed to make Super 8 movies of glassmaking at Venini.
  3. Dale Chihuly, “Kitchen Session Interviews,” by Mark McDonnell; Seattle, March 1998, Chihuly archives, Seattle.
  4. Dale Chihuly, “Chihuly Projects,” rough cut of unreleased video, directed by Peter West, June 2001. Many other American Fulbright scholars followed Chihuly to the Venini glass works.
  5. Mark McDonnell, Mercurio, exh. cat. (Seattle: William Traver Gallery, 2009), pp. 2–3.
  6. Franz A. Dreier, Venezianische Gläser: Und “Façon de Venise” (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 1989). Dreier’s endnotes refer to “Colbert e gli specchi veneziani,” in Luigi Zecchin, Vetro e vetrai di Murano: Studi sulla storia del vetro (CITY: PUBLISHER, 1949); see vol. 2, 1989 ed., pp. 128–56, for this and the entire story of Venetian mirror glassmakers in Paris.
  7. Ingeborg Krueger, “Glass-Mirrors in Medieval Times,” in Annales du 12e congrès de l’Association internationale pour l’histoire du verre, Vienne-Wien, 26–31 août 1991 (Amsterdam: Association internationale de l’histoire du verre, 1993), pp. 319–32. Krueger refers (p. 327) to two mirrored-glass makers from Lorraine allowed, as an exception to the strict rules, to work in a Venetian glasshouse.
  8. Ibid., p. 319.
  9. Ada Polak, Glass: Its Makers and Its Public (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1975), p. 57. Polak suggests cylinder-shaped glass—that is, extended bubbles: “Glass for mirrors... was made from cylinder-blown glass, and backed with metal foil and framed by the specchieri in Venice itself.’
  10. Krueger, “Glass-Mirrors,” pp. 322–25. A bill of 1312, for the duke of Burgundy in Artois, mentions sheets of glass and also quicksilver. The invention of an amalgam of tinfoil and quicksilver is often credited to mid-sixteenth-century Venice.
  11. Polak, Glass, p. 65. Barovier was working with another Muranese glassmaker, Niccolo Mozetto; they were granted sole rights to the manufacture of cristallo in 1457. Polak adds (p. 54), “In 1507 the brothers dal Gallo were granted the sole rights for 25 years for the production of crystal glass mirrors...which they had invented.”
  12. The manufacture of window glass has a parallel history to that of mirror glass.
  13. Dreier, Venezianische Gläser, and Zecchin, Vetro e vetrai di Murano. A group of Muranese glassmaking specialists, led by Antonio Cimegotto, worked at the royal glassworks in 1665 and 1666. Though unable to adapt fully to the French glass mix, the Italians taught the Parisian blowers sufficiently for the latter to operate independently thereafter.
  14. Dreier, Venezianische Gläser, and Zecchin, Vetro e vetrai di Murano. It is not known if his mission was successful, though the glassblower did disappear.
  15. Dreier, Venezianische Gläser, and Zecchin, Vetro e vetrai di Murano. Bernardo Perrotto (1640 –1709) invented cast glass. He left the Italian glass town of Altare and, as a naturalized Frenchman renamed Bernard Perrot, worked in Orléans at Compagnie Thévart, under the patronage of Philippe, duc d’Orléans. The Thévart and Noyer companies merged in 1695 and subsequently passed through a checkered history resulting in the current Saint-Gobain works.
  16. The palace at Honselersdijk fell into decay and was partly demolished in 1815.
  17. Mark McDonnell, conversation with Dale Chihuly, February 2, 2012. Chihuly acquired his own collection of mirrors in 2009. A group of them awaited removal from the former premises of the Fratelli Barbini Glass Mirror works, the building having been acquired by Lino and Lina Tagliapietra for conversion. Barbini showed them to Chihuly (and James Mongrain), who bought six. Barbini claims to be a descendant of Giralamo Barbini (possibly Gieronimo Barbin; see Zecchin, Vetro e vetrai di Murano, p. 135), said to have been one of the Venetians employed on the Versailles mirrors. SALIR (Studio Ars Labor Industrie Riunite) was founded in 1923 by Giuseppe D’Alpaos, Decio Toso, and Guglielmo Barbini. It is now managed by Luigi (Gigi) Toso and Mario D’Alpaos.
  18. Illustrated London News, December 1848.
  19. Joan E. Kaiser, The Glass Industry in South Boston (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2009), pp. 35–TK.
  20. Cast glass is still the sole means of making larger, single-component sculptural works. Henry Cros (1840–1907), working in pâte de verre in France, made several monumental works in the late 1890s. Fifty years later, Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, working together, made large-scale sculptures in Czechoslovakia in which the individual elements, many larger than most hand-blown pieces, were assembled into installations. One of the largest was River of Life, 1969–70, measuring seventy-two feet in length. In 1967, Timo Sarpaneva, working at Iittala, Finland, made a composite work of five hundred partly mold-blown, partly cast elements, titled Drift Ice and shown at Montreal Expo ’67.
  21. Between 1968 and 1971, Chihuly and Carpenter worked on several versions of Glass Forest and Glass Environment, as well as Uranium Neon Installation and 20,000 Pounds of Ice and Neon.
  22. The boat belonged to the Finnish master glassblower Unto Suominen, and it became a regular prop in Chihuly lake installations thereafter.
  23. Mark McDonnell, e-mail to author, January 23, 2012.
  24. Mark McDonnell, conversation with Dale Chihuly (and Peter West), confirmed February 2, 2012.
  25. Polak, Glass, pp. 129–30, for further discussion on the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century fascination with mirrors, reflections, and optical illusions.
  26. A second Aperto Vetro was held in Venice in 1998.
  27. Polak, Glass, p. 68. The traditional Venetian chandelier, made entirely of glass (rather than glass elements, or “droplets,” suspended from a wire frame) was designed by Giuseppe Briati (1686–1772) in the mid-eighteenth century.
  28. Donald Kuspit, “Delirious Glass: Dale Chihuly’s Sculpture,” in Chihuly, 2nd ed. (Seattle: Portland Press, 1998), p. 46.
  29. Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Short Cuts II / Mercurio, DVD, directed by Peter West, Portland Press, 2011.
  30. Mercurio was at the William Traver Gallery, Seattle, in 2009 and Chihuly Silvered at the Litvak Gallery in the 2010 SOFA Chicago exposition.
  31. Dorris Kuyken-Schneider, “Lino Tagliapietra’s Influence in the World of Glass and His Relationship with Copier,” in Titus M. Eliëns, A. D. Copier & Lino Tagliapietra: Inspiration in Glass (The Hague: A. D. Gemeentemuseum; Ghent: Snoeck-Ducajo & Zoon, 2000), p. 132.
  32. Frantz, Lino Tagliapietra in Retrospect, p. 20. Frantz (p. 21) also quotes Chihuly on Tagliapietra: “He has unbelievable skill and has been a huge influence.”
  33. Jennifer Lewis, “Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000,” in Chihuly Projects (Seattle: Portland Press, 2000), no. 32.
  34. Mark McDonnell, Chihuly Silvered, exh. cat. (Chicago: Litvak Gallery, SOFA Chicago, 2010), p. 3.
  35. Anna-Elisabeth Theuerkauff-Liederwald, Venezianisches Glas der Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg (Lingen, Germany: Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg and Luca Verlag, 1994), p. 28. The “ice glass” in the inventory was in the collection of the marqués de Priego, Córdoba, Spain, which is discussed in A. Wilson Frothingham, Spanish Glass (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), p. 33.
  36. Hugh Tait, ed., Glass: 5,000 Years (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1991), p. 170.
  37. Polak, Glass, p. 54. The blue rim was one of the requirements laid down in the Capitulare of 1271
  38. Frantz, Lino Tagliapietra in Retrospect, p. 22.
  39. Matthew Collings, “Breaking the Rules,” in Chihuly, exh. cat. (London: Halcyon Gallery, 2011), p. 11.
  40. Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Over Venice, video, produced and directed by Gary Gibson, KCTS Seattle with Lark International, 1996.

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