Glass Design: from the Furnaces of Murano to Renaissance Canvases (and back)
In 1578 Paolo Veronese created a painting of the ‘Annunciation‘, which is now in the Accademia Galleries of Venice, in which he places the Virgin Mary next to an elegant glass vase.
In 1921 Vittorio Zecchin, the art director of Venini, decided to recreate the vase designed by Veronese in Murano glass: the product was so successful that it became the logo of the Venini company for several years. The Veronese vase is still produced in several different versions; among my favourites is the one in avventurina, with its rich reddish copper base.
In 2012 the designer Cleto Munari launched a project called ‘Aprés Veronese‘, which asked twelve different artists and architects to reinterpret this famous object in a modern way. From the works of Massimiliano Fuksas to Richard Meier, many of the results were funny and unexpected.
The Veronese Vase is probably the most famous example of a glass object which appeared first on the canvas of a Renaissance master and then in a furnace in Murano. But there are many other similar cases: wandering around the rooms of the Accademia Galleries we can enjoy trying to find some of the images that inspired modern glass masters.
In another well-known canvas by Veronese depicting the ‘The Feast in the House of Levi‘ (1573), we spot a servant holding in one hand a bottle with an elongated neck: it is one among the many versions of the inghistera (a term specifically used for glass bottles), a vessel that was never missing from ancient banquets, starting with Roman Age.
Beside Jesus’ face another servant, dressed in yellow, holds a goblet with a large, almost flat bowl; this is an object that we often find in the representations of convivial scenes of this period. In Veronese’s painting the transparency of these glasses also carries a symbolic meaning, but in their contemporary remaking their essential shapes are expressed through the most varied hues that enhance their beauty.
Moving from depictions of lavishly decked tables to private rooms, let’s linger on the wooden plates that Giovanni Bellini had painted as decorations for a XV century restello (a toilette furniture).
The ‘Allegory of Vanity‘ is represented by a woman holding a special mirror, circular and convex, that reflects and shows us the face that’s staring back at her.
Those mirrors were very common at that age, as witnessed by other artworks of the same period, among them the very famous ‘Arnolfini portrait’ by Jan van Eyck. Today’s lovers of their own reflections will be able to find convex mirrors with inventive frames in the Canestrelli workshop, located at a close distance from the museum, where the objects are still totally handcrafted.
Finally, we can’t forget the role played by glass in lighting.
While the majestic chandeliers that we normally associate to the island of Murano only began to appear in the XVII century, during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance a different type of suspended lamp with Oriental origins was in use: the cesendello. Here again we can retrace the object’s history starting from an ancient example hosted in the Glass Museum in Murano; we can then admire the lamp hanging from vaults depicted in altarpieces of the XV century; finally, we meet the modern version as we walk under the porticoes of the Procuratie in St. Mark’s Square.
From Carpaccio‘s canvases to Gianni Berengo Gardin photographs: five centuries of Design made in Venice!
However, this is only a taste of what you can discover in the precious paintings of the past: from architecture to textiles, every detail tells much more than what you can actually imagine, but only the BestVeniceGuides can help you to discover it.