Known as an umbo vase because of the pattern of umbones or bulges around the body, the vessel originally had a cover that is now lost. The glassblower has decorated the body and foot of this vase with canes of opaque white glass blown into complex patterns. The delicate, linear diagonal patterns contrast with the vigorous curves of the umbo shape.
This decoration, known as vetro a fili and vetro a retorti, revolutionized the appearance of Venetian glass when it was perfected in the mid-1500s; it quickly won the admiration of a wealthy international clientele. In 1550 an eyewitness described the invention and fantasy offered by glassmakers at Murano:
Glassmen make a variety of objects: cups, phials, pitchers, globular bottles, dishes, saucers, mirrors, animals, trees, ships. Of so many wonderful objects I should take long to tell. I have seen such at Venice, and especially at Murano where are the most famous of all glass factories.