Museo del Vetro

Glass Museum

REDISCOVERING THE MUSEUM. The revival of the second half of the 19th century. Antonio Salviati and Vincenzo Zanetti.


“Rediscovering Museums” is a series of exhibitions which aims to exploit the full potential of core collections that are generally not on display to the public yet are of great importance and significance.

After the exhibition dedicated to the little known glass pieces from the early Nineteenth century (1797-1859), a difficult period for Murano glass, it is now the turn of the second half of the century, which was witness to an extraordinary revival. This was the result of three fundamental factors. In 1859, two glass makers, Lorenzo Radi from Murano and Macedonio Candiani from Milan, turned to the Vicentine lawyer Antonio Salviati, with the request to found a company to make glass enamels for mosaics. Salviati immediately understood the great business potential of the enterprise; he therefore asked to become a partner, a request that was granted, and shortly afterwards bought out Candiani, taking over the management of the business. The novelty that Salviati introduced into the timid, fragmented entrepreneurial spirit on Murano at that time consisted mainly in the modernising of marketing terms, placing the market and not production at the centre. It was therefore no longer a matter of production “first” and “then” trying to sell, but rather “first” monitoring the needs of the potential buyers and “then” adopting their production accordingly. This strategy was then applied on the local, national and international markets, and he moved to London where he opened a shop in the heart of the city, published leaflets in English, held conferences and found investors. Very quickly all of Murano was then producing glass for him, either directly or indirectly and he exhibited the most beautiful, colourful and lightest glass of the highest craftsmanship that had ever been seen all over the world, with a success that still remains unequalled today. As chance would have it during the very same period Vincenzo Zanetti (1824-1883) was also working on Murano, an abbot, untiring scholar, in love with the island, its history and people. With the help of the pharmacist and Mayor Antonio Colleoni he founded the Murano Museum on 7th October 1861, concentrating more on the collection of documents and testimonies than on the collection of ancient glass, thus establishing a partnership that was both positive and fruitful with the local glass industry. Salviati himself discussed many of the aspects of his business project with him and received both help and encouragement.

The third stage that was needed for the total, sound revival was the opening of the “scuola festiva di disegno per gli artieri annessa al museo”, opened by Abbot Zanetti in 1862. It was a school created to teach the most skilled craftsmen the technique of drawing, thus expanding their historical and stylistic knowledge, finding new models, and refining their use of decorative elements and the balance of forms. After what had been almost a century of total oblivion, Venice and Murano thus returned to being the centre of beauty, elegance and the latest style.