Unknown artist, Italian; Venetian
Bowl, ca. 1500
Mosaic glass, blown in a dip mold
Height: 4.1 cm (1 5/8 inches)
Museum purchase with funds from Mrs. Harold Brown, by exchange 73.033
During the Middle Ages, when Venice was the most prosperous city in Europe, its glass artists benefitted from contact with wealthy Islamic nations. The industry had grown so large by 1291 that city officials, fearing a devastating fire, removed all glass foundries to the island of Murano, where the glassmakers developing their skills closely guarded their recipes. Among their celebrated techniques was mosaic glass, for which colored glass canes were bundled into patterns and heated, stretched, and then sliced into small, flowerlike disks. These were then incorporated into clear glass and blown into bowl form. Mesopotamians likely developed the basic technique during the fifteenth century BCE, but millefiori, as mosaic glass was called in Venice, reached its apogee there at the end of the fifteenth century.