The first Murano glass chandeliers to be produced by Venetian glassmakers
date back around the year 1700.
Since the early 13th century venetian glass was widely appreciated as the most beautiful and purest glass existing and since that time glassmakers had always made beautiful works of art using their unique glass. In the 18th century they finally used it to introduce new products such as glass mirrors and chandeliers.
In history these glass chandeliers became popular after the iron, wood and brass era of chandeliers, and they were such a success that instantly brought chandeliers to a new dimension.
Murano glass production in the 18th century found infact a new energy to contrast the emerging competing manufacturers that started to spread on the market such as crystal from Bohemia.
Bohemiens and Venetian glassmakers were both masters in the art of making chandeliers. Bohemian style was largely successfull across Europe and was popular in some parts of Italy too. Its biggest draw was the chance to obtain spectacular light refraction due to facets and bevels of crystal prisms.
As a reaction to this new taste Murano glass factories created new kinds of artistic light sources.
The earliest example of a Murano glass chandelier was produced specifically for Frederick IV of Denmark that still hangs in his palace today. The King travelled to Murano in 1709 to acquire the chandelier that appears in his inventory by 1718 along with other Venetian glass works.
Since Murano glass was not suitable for faceting, typical work realized at the time in other countries where crystal was used, venetian glassmakers relied upon the unique qualities of their glass.
Typical features of a Murano chandelier are the intricate arabeques of leaves, flowers and fruits that would be enriched by coloured glass, made possible by the specific type of glass used in Murano.
This glass they worked with was so unique, as it was soda glass (famed for its extraordinary lightness) and was a complete contrast to all different types of glass produced in the world at that time. An incredible amount of skill and time was required to precisely twist and shape a chandelier.
This new type of chandelier was called "ciocca", literally bouquet of flowers, for the characteristic decorations of glazed polychrome flowers.
The most sumptuous of them consisted of a metal frame covered with small elements in blown glass, transparent or colored, with decorations of flowers, fruits and leaves, while simpler model had arms made with a unique piece of glass.
Their shape was inspired by an original architectural concept: the space on the inside is left almost empty since decorations are spread all around the central support, distanced from it by the length of the arms.
One of the common use of the huge Murano Chandeliers was the interior lighting of theatres and rooms in important palaces.
Giuseppe Briati was the most famous producer of these chandeliers.
GIUSEPPE BRIATI AND THE REZZONICO CHANDELIER.
Giuseppe Briati was a famous Venetian glassmaker who focused his work on the creation of what are now recognised as the typical Murano chandeliers with multiple arms decorated with garlands, flowers and leaves, called "ciocche".
Born on the island of Murano in 1686 from a family of glassmakers he apparently had the chance to work in a Bohemian glass factory, where he learned the secrets of working the crystal, that at the time was taking over venetian glass leadership on the european market.
Briati contributed significantly to improve the fortunes of the Venetian glass, which after having experienced a period of success, was heavily decayed. His furnace became famous for the production of Bohemian inspired glass with a twist of eccentricity, that through colors and decorations gave them the look of triumph of polychrome flowers.
Despite stiff opposition from his fellow citizen, Briati also introduced a glass production with a chemical composition similar to that of Bohemia in the attempt to fight the competition, without diminishing his works to mere imitation.
Giuseppe Briati created what it's now called Rezzonico Chandelier, whose name derive from the first chandelier of its kind, that represents the classic Murano chandelier. It was designed by Briati for the noble venetian family Rezzonico and hung in their palace along the Grand Canal, now famed venetian museum under the name "Ca' Rezzonico".
This kind of chandelier, completely realized by hand, required a particular working by the glassmakers due to the arms being formed by many small pieces of glass. Every shape of glass had to be masterly executed because any outsize piece wouldn't fit to be mounted between the others.
Rezzonico chandelier is an example of the ability of the italian craftmanship to adapt to changes and to offer new and innovative solutions to the mutation of architectural needs.