It's Art Darling (Part III) Alchemy, Murano Glass and Monkey Business

Published 6th April 2009

Originally conceived with a more practical purpose in life glass has always been sought after since the earliest times to quote a contemporary source it took 'a rare kind of Knowledg and chymistry to transmute Dust and Sand to such a diaphanous pellucid dainty body as you see a Crystall-Glasse is' to put it more bluntly who woke up one morning and decided 'hey you know what, I'm going to heat up a pile of sand and mix it with some wood ash or burnt seaweed and see what I get' ?

Whilst the Romans and Egyptians certainly used this high status medium to produce things of a more 'artistic' nature it was the Venetians that picked up the ball and ran with it particularly those on the island of Murano. There are two schools of thought as to why this highly skilled process was restricted to Murano rather than elsewhere on the lagoon. Some consider that the high temperatures involved in glass making led Venetians to fear immolation, but being surrounded by water and stone buildings that surely can't have been the case - it seems more likely that it was easier to guard and maintain the profitable secrets of glass making by restricting production to the smaller island of Murano.


 murano glass 'lucy' by juan ripolles           murano glass abstract face form vase       murano glass 'camilla' by silvio vigliaturo


As innovators they seemed second to none producing dainty glasses, brightly coloured beads and complex paperweights, however it was the twenty century that saw Murano produce glass as sculptural art in it's own right. If one puts aside the technically painful skills involved in moulding, manipulating and joining molten glass without cracking or blurring the constituent parts, if one ignores the fragility of the finished product (both part of the attraction for some) then one can marvel at the vivid colours of Murano glass, a medium that never fades and remains as bright as the day you bought it.
The first fifteen lots of our forthcoming July auction are from a collection of Murano glass, so is it art darling - of course it is, but you make your own mind up. Unlike some contemporary art I defy you say that a monkey could have done that? What monkey would be stupid enough to burn sand and seaweed?

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