Murano Glass Blowing | 700 Years of Glass Making Venice

Venetian blown glass from Murano island

If you have ever visited or simply searched Venice online, you’ve probably seen the famous Venetian glass masterpieces that fill storefronts, vendors’ carts, and decorate various homes and hotels. Interest in Murano glass blowing has been revived via splashy social media pictures and most likely due renewed interest worldwide artisan crafts.

Videos upon videos, like the one below, of people ranging from amateurs blowing glass in small studios to master craftsmen creating exquisite pieces of art, are blowing (pun intended) up news feeds all over the world. It is no surprise that glass blowing once again is gaining immense popularity because it’s a fascinating art form: a beautiful work of art emerging from a dull ball of raw material, almost like a phoenix rising from a pile of ashes!

While current glass blowing, especially glass blowing from Murano, is fascinating to people all over the world, the human mind can’t help but be curious as to the who, what, where, when, why, and how of glass blowing. Who can claim to be the creator of glassblowing in Murano? What or who sparked the beginning of the glassblowing era? How did glassblowing become such a prized and accomplished form of art?

How Old Is the Art of Glass Blowing in Venice?

Venetian glass blowing dates as far back as the 8th century. Romans used the knowledge of molded glass they gained from the Byzantine Empire and the Orient to illuminated bathhouses. Up until the 1960s, many were unsure when glass blowing originated and often believed it wasn’t until the 1200s that glassblowing became a known trade. However, in 1960 archaeologists discovered a furnace for glass on a Venetian island dating to the 8th century AD. The roots of glassblowing stretch back even further into Roman history.

Clear Glass Making and Mirror Making

When you’re getting ready for the day what’s the one thing you always make sure to do before leaving the house? Check yourself out in a mirror, of course! Well, it wasn’t until the 15th century that Angelo Barovier discovered how to produce clear glass which could, in turn, be used for mirrors. This innovation resulted in Murano glassmakers being the only producers of mirrors in Europe.

The popularity of not just Murano mirrors, but all Murano glass pieces continued to soar into the 16th century. Techniques from the Middle East such as enameling and gilding glass as well as ice glass yielded more complex and interesting works. Filigrana glass, which is created by using glass rods with threads of white, golden, or colored glass that are then twisted around each other, began to be produced en masse as European nobility demanded more and more of the uniquely elite masterpieces.

In the following centuries, Murano glassblowing rose and fell in popularity. The introduction of new techniques and competitors in Bohemia and France in the early 18th century caused a decline in demand for Murano glassware. The capture of Venice by Napoleon in 1814 almost caused the industry to disappear completely from Murano.

Nevertheless, Murano glassware rose again. Spearheaded by the Toso Brothers, Antonio Salviati, and others, Murano craftsmen went back to their roots in the 1850s and revived techniques used to create traditional Murano glass. Because of this strategy, Murano glassware and craftsmen once again gained immense popularity and exclusivity. Today the number of glassblowers in Murano has dwindled but there is a Murano glassware trademark to help protect their work and their incomes.

If you’re fascinated by glass blowing and planning to visit Venice, consider joining us on an exclusive private tour that includes witnessing the traditional craft of glassblowing in Murano.