The history of Murano glass is interesting in the fact that it is the longest lasting center for glass making in history. It spans from the 9th century to today, and is full of beautiful and innovative artwork, success, failure and thankfully, a remarkable resiliency in the face of adversity. Because Murano does have such a long history, one can easily see the reflection of important events, including the Renaissance and Napoleon’s conquest of Europe, and how they affected a small island of glassmakers in the Adriatic Sea. First for readers uncertain of where Murano lies, it is a small island North West of the city of Venice, Italy – not much larger than a few square miles.
It is believed the origins of Murano Glass dates back to 9th century Rome, with significant Asian and Muslim influences, as Venice was a major trading port. Multihued perle (beads) were used in trading with Asian, African and Muslim neighbors.
The first known historical document describes Domenico, a maestro (glass blowing master) who created fiole (bottles). Other equally rare documents describe Pietro Fiolario working with glass in 1083 and Giovanni Fiolario as a maestro making bottles in 1158.
The 13th Century brought an abundance of historical records on the growing trade of glassblowing in Venice. The craft grew so rapidly, that in the 1260’s a trade association, the Arte, was formed. In an attempt to create and formalize a body of broad rules on how glass shops were to be operated and the duties and responsibilities of both maestri and discipuli (disciples), the Capitolare was created. The earliest known version of the Capitolare dates to 1271, and was updated regularly for over 500 years until 1776. Over time, the Capitolare addressed quality control, raw material agreements and trade protection from foreign competitors. Although few glass pieces survive from the 13th century, documents from that period describe a range of utilitarian products from glasses and vases to beads and other less widely recognized objects including enameled glass, imitation jewels and richly colored window panes.