History of Murano Glass Continued (From the 17th Century to the Present)
Read the beginning of this article: History of Murano Glass to the End of the 16th Century
But after the turn of the 17th century the industry fell into a severe depression. In the 1620s the plague decimated the population and
was followed by a drought that even affected the ability to obtain raw materials. In 1628 all the furnaces closed for a year and a few
never reopened their doors. Then, in 1676 Bohemian and English crystal was invented providing formidable competition to Murano glass.
Nevertheless, the Murano's artists were able to renew their offering by increasing the elegance of its production.
In the 18th century competition intensified and the Republic reacted by further restricting imports. But in 1797 Napoleon ended the
independence of the Serenissima, which fell under the Austrian empire, which heavily taxed Murano glass to favor Bohemian and Austrian
From the Risorgimento to Today
The crisis continued through half of the 19th century. Then, the discovery of a few new types of glass, the birth of a few marquee glass
shops (Fratelli Toso and Salviati), and independence from the Austrian empire sparked a recovery. In 1861 the mayor of Murano Antonio
Colleoni, the abbot Vincenzo Zanetti, and the lawyer Antonio Salviati founded the Archeological Museum of Glass (Museo del vetro
archeologico). The city also opened a school to train new glass masters, and in 1864 it held the first Murano Glass expo. But the majority
of young artisans failed to open their horizons to changing global trends and did not capitalize on them. The notable exceptions were the
Fratelli Toso and Barovier artists.
The 20th century saw some changes for the better. Masters began to cooperate with other professionals in the design and production of new
products and Murano glass became an important form of artistic expression again. In the 1920s Cappellin, Venini e C. produced highly creative
and appealing items that also embodied a practical component thanks to the skills of Vittorio Zecchin, one of the masters who also became an
important contributor to the Art Nouveau movement.
Zecchin was followed by other masters such as Seguso, Tagliapietra, and Barbini, who continued on a path of innovation and creativity. In
the 1950s Italian design regained global recognition and Murano glass benefited from that trend with the creation of inspired pieces.
The 21st century began with another crisis brought about by cheap Murano glass imitations from developing countries. Despite this, today
the glass industry in Murano directly or indirectly employs two thousand out of a population of seven thousand citizens. Murano glass
artisans continue the millenarian tradition of their city and work to pass it to the next generations while at the same time embodying new
innovations and creative designs.