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The history of the Venetian glass industry

The history of the Venetian glass industry mirrors the economic and political history of the Serene Republic. As the city established its supremacy over trade between western Europe and the eastern Mediterranean glassmaking, along with other manufactures, was a significant supplementary industry--drawing in raw materials from the east and exporting glassware to the west. But the importance of the industry increased enormously when, in the fifteenth century, Venice was besieged by its neighbors and its trade was threatened by the advancing Ottoman Turks. The city began to develop its industries in a conscious plan designed to compensate for the loss of trade. Technical innovations, accompanied by great political and financial investment, put the glass trade in the vanguard of the city's successful substitution of industry for trade. Glassmaking had been important to Venice from at least the tenth century. But in the fifteenth century the industry progressed from the profitable production of utilitarian glassware to become the world center for technical innovations and the production of glassware with great aesthetic value. A brief review of Venetian history is followed by a discussion of the origins of the industry in the Middle Ages and the art of the glassmakers of the Renaissance.

Venice was unique among European states in remaining independent of any other political entity throughout the Middle Ages and in the absolute complementarity of its governance and its commercial interests. Unlike other Italian states, that featured rule by hereditary aristocrats and the occasional imported dictator, Venice was a republic, ruled by the doge and council who were elected by the city's merchant oligarchy. The annual ceremony in which the doge, "to the accompaniment of hymns, prayers, and guns," would cast a diamond ring into the sea, 'marrying' Venice to the Adriatic, was symbolic of the seamless connection between the political a...

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The history of the Venetian glass industry. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:06, August 07, 2020, from