The art of glass

A different glass

Unique glass

The differences between artisanal art glass and large-scale industrial production are numerous: the individual processing of each product, carried out entirely by hand, requires completely different methods and techniques from industrial production.

Producing by hand means shaping the material that will make up the final artistic product in every part, including every smallest detail. For this reason, the master glassmaker will take longer and go through more stages than large-scale industry, with a greater commitment in terms of physical effort and the possibility of having to make corrections during the creation of the object.

These differences can be traced back to three fundamental characteristics of Murano art glass.
Da quel momento, la vetreria si sviluppò in due direzioni: da un lato continuò l’antica tradizione del vetro artistico muranese, con i classici bicchieri soffiati, i vasi, i piatti, le alzate e i lampadari veneziani; dall’altro accolse le suggestioni dell’arte contemporanea, sotto la spinta della continua ricerca di nuove tecniche ed effetti resi possibili dalla materia vitrea.
Si svilupparono così proficue collaborazioni con artisti e designer. Dal 1953 al 1958 con l’artista e scultore Napoleone Martinuzzi, che creò figure femminili in vetro massiccio, pannelli decorativi in bassorilievo e grandi lampadari. Ancora, con il pittore Luigi Scarpa Croce, che ideò nuove forme in vetro sommerso. Oppre, dal 1954 al 1962, con il designer Fulvio Bianconi, le cui creazioni vennero esposte alla Biennale nel 1954.
Greater malleability
After centuries of theoretical and practical studies, countless attempts and important achievements, the glass masters of Murano have succeeded in achieving greater malleability of the material. This was made possible through the development of a special chemical structure and specific tools created to facilitate the work of the master - for example metal and wooden tools, which were also made by hand.

Today, Murano art glass is characterised by the presence of greater quantities of carbonates and nitrates, elements that allow the glass to melt at lower temperatures and solidify more slowly. This allows the master glassmaker more time to mould the shape of the object being worked.

For the same reasons, Murano art glass has no lead content, which would make the glass harder during hot processing. It is precisely this characteristic that means that glass with higher lead concentrations is widely used for production in the industrial sector: here, through the use of sophisticated machinery, it is much easier to achieve the shine, transparency and elasticity typical of crystal.
Distinctive and unmatchable colours
The colours of Murano art glass range over a very wide spectrum: traditionally, each furnace has its own particular ‘recipe’ of raw materials used to obtain a particular colour.

Unlike industrial colours, which are patent-protected and in common use, the colours created by the masters of Murano are the result of centuries-old empirical studies and are jealously guarded. Moreover, some of these colours are particularly difficult to process: different shades occur depending on changes in dosage, processing times and the amount of glass used.

These characteristics make Murano art glass even more unique: each object can present original colour nuances that are difficult to replicate.

The wisdom of doing

The master glassmakers pass on their knowledge from generation to generation, to young apprentices who in turn develop different techniques and specialise in particular processes. This results in the creation of artistic objects that are always original, each containing centuries-old knowledge and, at the same time, unique characteristics due to their being worked entirely by hand.

Glass masters:
The people who made the history of Murano glass

Antonio da Ros

Antonio Da Ros (b. 1936) graduated from the Carmini Institute of Decorative Arts in Venice in 1957, obtaining the title of Professor of Decorative Arts and Architecture. In 1958 he began working with the Gino Cenedese glassworks (later Ars Cenedese Murano).The presence of Master Da Ros has remained a constant feature in the Ars Cenedese Murano glassworks and, under his artistic direction, the company has developed several decorative lines of contemporary design. These include stylised shapes with coloured glass immersion; more recently, the Scavo glass technique has been used to introduce an important decorative line in several new creations, all of great appeal for the simplicity of the lines, the preciousness of the material and the modernity of the colours.His latest works are characterised by a return to the traditional Murano techniques of mouth-blown glass, reinterpreted with a contemporary sensibility: we are talking about the ‘Venezia sogni’, ‘Venezia I’ and ‘Venezia II’ collections.

Ermanno Nason

Master Ermanno Nason was born in Murano in 1928 to one of the oldest Murano families: the first records of the Nason family name, in fact, date back to 1300.Nason began working in his father’s glassworks at the age of 9. After primary school, Maestro Nason attended the Drawing School for apprentice glassmakers and studied with professors Vittorio Zecchin and Luigi Scarpa Croce, dividing his time between lessons and work in the furnace. In 1952, he was promoted to ‘Maestro di prima piazza’.In 1953, a revolution took place in the world of glass: a number of famous artists - including Chagall, Cocteau, Picasso, Le Corbusier, Fontana, and many others - designed subjects to be made in glass, and master Ermanno Nason took charge of many of these processes. Mr Nason distinguished himself from other craftsmen by his impeccable elegance in dress and manners and his ability to create shapes and volumes without a single moment’s hesitation. He specialised in the Massello glass technique, in which a block of glass mass is stretched, shaped and fused, allowing several pieces to be joined without seams.From 1965 to 1972, Mr Nason worked for the Gino Cenedese glassworks, creating some original pieces of his own design, as well as executing the designs of Professor Antonio Da Ros (designer of Ars Cenedese Murano) and other famous artists - such as Harold Stevenson and Silvestri .Master Nason continued to work in the Ars Cenedese Murano furnace until 1993. His masterpieces are exhibited in museums all over the world or are part of private collections.

Napoleone Martinuzzi

Napoleone Martinuzzi (1892-1977) was an Italian glass sculptor and designer. The son of a famous Venetian glass master, he attended Antonio Dal Zotto’s school at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Venice between 1906 and 1909. His first exhibition was at Ca’ Pesaro in Venice in 1908.From 1910 to 1911 he worked in Rome in Angelo Zannelli’s studio. In 1914 he exhibited a white marble sculpture in Rome at the exhibition of the Second Roman Secession. From then on he exhibited his works, mainly sculptures in white marble and bronze, in the most important Italian and European exhibitions (Venice Biennale, Quadriennale in Rome and also in Paris, Brussels and Vienna).In 1917, he began a collaboration with the famous poet and writer Gabriele D’Annunzio, with whom he designed and created famous sculptures: among them were ‘La Canefora’, ‘La Vittoria Alata’ and ‘La Testa di Michelangelo’, which can be admired at the Vittoriale in Rome along with many beautiful glass objects.From 1922 to 1931 he was the director of the Murano Glass Museum and in 1925 he became a partner and artistic director of the Venini glassworks. His collaboration with Venini resulted in a major breakthrough in glass design and techniques.In 1932, together with Francesco Zecchin, he founded a new glassworks and exhibited at the Milan Triennale.After a transitional period in which he mainly devoted himself to sculpture, in 1947 and for the next five years he was art director for Alberto Seguso’s Arte Vetro glassworks, where he produced glass sculptures of torsos and female heads.From 1953 to 1958 he collaborated with the Gino Cenedese glassworks making chandeliers, sculptures and bas-relief panels in Scavo style glass, works that can still be admired in the Ars Cenedese Murano showrooms.

Giancarlo Begotti

Master decorator Giancarlo Begotti, born in Venice on 5 December 1920, is known as one of the greatest artists of our time in the field of handmade decorations on glass artworks.After graduating from the Carmini Institute of Decorative Arts in Venice, he took his first steps in the world of work in the field of advertising design. It was only after the end of World War II that his attraction to Murano glass began, as well as to the great possibilities and challenges in decorating with this precious material.He worked with Ars Cenedese Murano in the late 1960s and early 1980s, devoting himself to decoration with pure gold, known as Graffito, and coloured vitreous enamel: in this way he revived the ancient techniques of the glorious Venetian Renaissance.For his subjects, he was inspired by Venetian painters of the 17th and 18th century, but he also created many subjects of his own, always with Venetian themes (scenes of ladies, knights in a small-town square). His works were exhibited all over Europe, while some were included in the private collections of the world’s most important private collectors: these included former President of China Hua Guoh Feng and former US President Jimmy Carter. In the latter case it was ‘Mappamondo’, a globe made by Ars Cenedese Murano and painted in gold Graffito by Begotti, now in the White House Museum in Washington DC.

Maurizio Asti

Master Maurizio Asti was born in 1962 in Murano, where he currently works for the Ars Cenedese glassworks.Master Asti joined the company in 1977 at the age of 15, starting as an apprentice alongside the great master Fabio Tosi.Working with Tosi, he developed his skills and took some of the master’s ideas to an even higher level. He has become one of the greatest masters in the submerged technique, thanks to which he achieves wonderful effects and unique results.Master Asti has also developed new ideas in glass sculpture and his realisations of abstract shapes in the superimposition technique are simply breathtaking.Master Asti continues the work of master Fabio Tosi by reproducing some pieces from the Roman tradition and making other modern pieces, in both cases making use of the Scavo technique: applying different types of minerals to the glass fusion gives the objects a matt finish that captures nature’s own oxidation process.

Elena Bucella

Master decorator Elena Bucella was born in Venice on 1 October 1959.From a young age, she has always loved art and chose to express herself through painting and drawing. Immediately after finishing compulsory school in 1976, she applied to join the Ars Cenedese Murano glassworks, starting work as an apprentice and trainee in the workshop.Young and talented, she soon demonstrated exquisite skills and began working closely with Mr Guido Dorigo, the company’s chief decorator at the time.Under his guidance, he learned the trade and perfected his skills until, after Dorigo’s retirement, he became the company’s chief decorator.His works include a glass globe with gold graffito decoration, a reproduction of the Barovier wedding cup, several plates with reproductions of famous paintings, as well as beautiful glass services depicting scenes of 18th century Venetian life, for which he used both gold graffito and coloured enamel techniques.