If you’re planning to match your home renovation with some impressive decorating, it’s always useful to visit galleries and museums for inspiration. Venetian Glass is famous for its vibrant colour and crystalline clarity, elaborate design and unmatched craftsmanship, honed over hundreds of years by local artisans on the island of Murano in Venice, Italy.
Liquid Light: 500 Years of Venetian Glass draws upon the National Gallery of Victoria’s extensive holdings of Venetian Glass, ranging in date from the 16th to the 20th centuries, including the NGV’s especially rich material from the 19thcentury revival period. In displays exploiting the characteristic brilliance and vivid colour palette of Murano glass, the exhibition traverses five centuries of style – from Baroque to post-modernism – through a display of glassware including elaborate champagne flutes and goblets, bowls and vases, tableware and decorative objects. Highlights from the exhibition include an opulent Serpent-stem goblet from the early 17th century, replete with intertwining dragons that coil around its stem; and a bottle-shaped Patchwork vase by Fulvio Bianconi, circa 1950, created by masterfully fusing blocks of coloured glass into a kaleidoscope of colour.
The exhibition showcases the Venetians’ technical prowess through considered displays of the famous cristallo body, known for its transparent, watery fineness; lattimo, a milky, white glass coveted for its resemblance to porcelain; and vetro a filigrana – glasses decorated with fine white threads twisted into elaborate patterns. Though the secret formula for Venetian glass was heavily guarded on Murano, its qualities were emulated by major European glasshouses, particularly in The Netherlands. Through exquisite displays of “façon de Venise” glass, the exhibition celebrates the indelible impact and legacy of Venetian Glass on glassblowing worldwide.
Venetian Glass experienced a major revival in the 19th century as Venice became part of the newly unified Kingdom of Italy. That unification sparked the restoration of traditional Italian industries, including the Muranese glass industry, which enjoyed resurgence in connoisseurship and supremacy. In 1871 a large collection of Venetian Glass was acquired by the NGV directly from Venice by the proconsul to the Kingdom of Italy; followed by a further group of works acquired in 1874 from the manufactory of Antonio Salviati, the father of Venetian Glass revival. Further important groups of 19thcentury Venetian Glass entered the collection from the Italian displays at the 1880–81 Melbourne International Exhibition.
Liquid Light: 500 Years of Venetian Glass is on display from 8 March 2019 to 13 April 2020 at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Entry is FREE. Tickets and information are available from the NGV website.
Venini & Co., Murano manufacturer
Italy est. 1921
Fulvio Bianconi designer
Handkerchief (Fazzoletto) vase 1949 designed
c. 1950–60 manufacturedglass (vetro a fili decoration)
19.8 x 34.0 x 21.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria
T: 03 8620 2311