Murano glass feted in Paris

Works from Renaissance to contemporary art on show in 'Fragile'

Murano glass feted in Paris

Paris, March 26 - From Renaissance nuptial goblets to a spiderweb sculpture by contemporary artist Mona Hatoum, nearly 1,000 years of history are spanned at the exhibition 'Fragile: Murano, Masterpieces from the Renaissance to the 21st Century' in Paris. The show, on now through July 28 at the Musee' Maillol, features 200 items from the most historic glass dynasties in Murano, such as Barovier, Ferro, Serena, all of which are still active in the Venetian lagoon. Special focus is awarded to works commissioned for the most important families from the courts of Europe - such as the Estes, Gonzagas, and the Medicis - as well as to distinctive creative styles from the Baroque, Art Deco, modernist and contemporary movements, such as the 20th-century Studio Glass movement. One section of the show is reserved for formidable international artists of the 20th and 21st centuries who experimented with glass-blowing in Murano at moments in their careers, such as Marc Chagal, Lucio Fontana, Cesar Baldaccini, Jan Fabre and Jean-Michel Othoniel. "A constant in the Venetian style has endured from the Renaissance to the present: glass is treated like a malleable material that is worked with fire and the human breath, and this process must be seen in the finished product," Rosa Barovier Mentasti, renowned Murano glass expert, told ANSA at the opening of the show. Barovier Mentasti is co-curator, along with historian Cristina Tonini and Olivier Kaeppelin, director of the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France. Born in Murano to a family of master glassmakers, Barovier Mentasti points out that the process for making Murano glass in a direct flame was passed down from the Romans and the Islamic world. During the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, the island's glass workshops had an enormous influence on European glassworking. Among the many techniques discovered or refined by Murano's specialists were crystalline glass, enamelled glass, aventurine glass threaded with gold, multicoloured glass, milk glass and 'filigrana', in which the glass is worked with fine twisted threads, or filigree. "Venetian craftsmen have excelled both stylistically, with refined decorations such as painting on enamel, and for their technical innovations," said Barovier Mentasti. Among the highlights of the exhibition, "for its rarity, elegance and vivacity," says Tonini, is a 16th-century turquoise cup from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, one of only three pieces known to the world. Others are the 'Triumph of Justice' goblet from the Bargello Museum in Florence; a milk-white cup known as the 'Lute Player and Young Woman' from the National Museum in Prague, and a lamp from Dusseldorf designed according to the Islamic tradition. "Today there is a revaluation of Murano glass, long forgotten, even considered second-rate," say the curators in their exhibition statement. "Part of the blame rests on Italian scholars, among the first to neglect this part of art history. "The aim of this exhibition is to arouse interest in the heritage of Venetian glass".

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