Ordinary magic glass (part 1)
The expression “Venetian glass” has become a household word. It is used for a high appreciation of the artistic merits of works of glass. And it is no coincidence that the largest museums in the world are proud of the works of nameless glassmakers of Venice along with paintings by famous painters – their contemporaries: Titian, Carpaccio, Veronese, Giorgione. Particularly remarkable are the products of the 16th century – the truly “golden age” of Venetian glass. They are even more advantageous when compared with European glass of the preceding one and a half millennia: thick-walled, muddy-green bottles, rough cups in the form of horns or stumps with uncomplicated decorations. The exception was perhaps the Byzantine colored glass that came to us in mosaics, and the products of the masters of Kievan Rus, who – the first in the world – were able to cook lead crystal 500 years before it was received in England.
Swept across Europe, the Crusades turned out to be a blessing for Venice, a rich, commercial republic located on their way. Its practical and active residents transported and supplied troops. They got the lion’s share of production. Among the captured art treasures, Byzantine glass bowls and goblets are still kept in the Cathedral of St. Mark. These products may have served the Venetian masters as role models. And the Byzantines themselves, brought to the republic as a kind of living “trophy” in 1204, after the crusaders defeated Constantinople, are considered one of the founders of glass making. The rapid rise of the art of Venetian glass began in the 13th century, when artisans formed a “guild” – a kind of production and creative union. In 1268, they staged the world’s first glass exhibition. The townspeople marveled at their art: colorful beads, decanters, bottles.
The government of the Republic of Venice appreciated the success of the guild in its own way. It not only forbade the craftsmen to travel outside of Venice, but also did not allow them to sell even broken glass, which until then was readily bought by neighboring states, trying to establish their own production. In 1291, it was ordered: to destroy all glass furnaces in other Italian cities, then subject to Venice, and to transfer furnaces from Venice two kilometers from the city, to the island of Murano, under the pretext of fire safety. Essentially, it was a diplomatic move, allowing you to maintain the priority and professional secrets of glass craft. Such decrees turned into imprisonment for artists, albeit an honorable one: exorbitant fines were imposed on those wishing to leave the island. The work of glassmakers brought Venice great profits and world fame. Their products served as a precious subject of Venetian trade.
By the 15th century, there were up to three hundred glass-making workshops in Murano, and up to 25 thousand artisans and families. This forced the government of the republic to award the “city of craftsmen” with significant privileges. Murano Island received its own legislation, board, court. The most eminent names were granted to the nobility. But repression was not slow to follow. By the middle of the 15th century, decrees were issued forbidding the inhabitants of the island, on pain of death and hard labor in galleys, from leaving for other lands. The glass was stained with blood when hired assassins were sent after the defectors, and the remaining family members were tortured and imprisoned. Echoes of cruel prohibitions were also felt in the XVIII century, when on the streets of European capitals, it happened, they found dead masters-Venetians. But rigor was powerless to tame the creative energy of glassmakers and their noble desire to share with other skills of professional mastery. They worked in many European countries, contributing everywhere to the origin and prosperity of glassmaking. So, the “Vinitsa” also worked near Moscow, at the Izmailovsky plant, founded in 1668.