The Collection of Venetian Glass of the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo

Fondazione Brescia Musei

The outstanding selection of much praised precious Venetian glass dated from the 16th to the 18th century that constitute part of the decorative art collection of Brescian Camillo Brozzoni.

Camillo Brozzoni’s Collection of Venetian Glass
In 1863, when Brescian art collector Camillo Brozzoni died, his art collections were donated to the City. His bequest included an outstanding selection of much praised precious and unique Venetian glass. The collection reflected the general revaluation of decorative arts – a European trend that in the last decades of the nineteenth century had a significant impact on museum collections, on artistic codes, and on artisanal and industrial production.
Venetian Glass
The art of Venetian crystal, a colourless and clear glass invented in the mid-fifteenth century, reached its peak between the sixteenth and the eighteenth century, with the introduction of techniques, decors, and typologies all well documented by Brozzoni’s collection: from milk glass (lattimo, a white opaque glass resembling Chinese porcelain) to refined filigree blown glass, from calcedonio glass (a mixture of different materials creating an agate rock effect) to the Baroque diamond-engraved glass.

This cup is an extraordinary piece because of the unique quality of the translucent and semi-opaque glass, due to a thick layer of tiny bubbles of saline crystal that surface during the fusion.

The so-called “a ghiaccio” technique is obtained by immersing the glass while still hot into cold water and then placing it into the oven again: this creates the characteristic craqueleure on the surface.

These casted glass objects reflect the extravagant Baroque taste characterizing the Venetian artistic glasswork of the seventeenth and the eighteenth century.

The Venetian production of this crystal needle - the upper part of which is decorated with a wound, undulating aquamarine glass thread - is shown by its quality and milk-glass decoration.

The grip is decorated with milk-glass festoons and applied aquamarine glass blackberries.

The Brescian collection contains numerous crystal items, including this Murano stemmed goblet with ‘rusticated’ external bowl decoration, made by blowing into a mould. This form is one of the best known and elegant of Venetian Renaissance glassware.

Many paintings of the Brescian area of the first half of the sixteenth century show a preference for the schieti blown glassware, as in "Cena in casa di Simone fariseo" of Romanino.

Enamelled crystals
Polychrome enamel decoration, a technique known since antiquity, was revived in Venice during the mid-fifteenth century and remained in fashion up to the third decade of the sixteenth century. Most frequent decorative motifs include the fish-scale, the dot, the lily-of-the-valley, and phytomorphic patterns. In this period, the gold leaf that occasionally complements the enamel is usually etched (scratched with a point and then fixed in the oven) or creates a golden flecked effect, obtained by blowing and dilating the object, causing the gold leaf to crack and deliver this original flecked finish.

These are two of the most famous pieces of enamelled Venetian Renaissance glass. The beautiful cobalt blue came into fashion in Murano around 1450.

With enamel, the decoration is applied on the object that is then placed into a special oven at a temperature below that of glass fusion, so that the colours adhere to the surface of the object.

Hand Blown Filigree Glass
Filigree decorations are made with milk glass (lattimo), an opaque glass that greatly flourished in Venice. Milk glass had been employed as an imitation of porcelain (not a very common material at the time) since around the 1530s, and also to make the glass strands and filaments used for filigree decorations, where configurations of white strands (or, more rarely, of coloured strands) immersed in blown crystal formed intricate and decorative patterns.

The filigree wall is made of three different types of alternating stems: straight milk glass lines, straight clear-blue-glass cased milk lines, and milk glass and crystal spiral lines.

A particular filigree decoration is the so-called reticello, entailing the blowing of a first layer with parallel diagonal filaments inside another layer with filaments in the opposite direction.

Thanks to this technique, the filaments of the layers form a crisscross pattern.

The use of such an unusual technique makes this piece is especially noteworthy.

Calcedonio and Avventurina Glasses
The imitation of hard stones and of natural stones in general has been one of the main themes in glass works since antiquity. The technique to imitate polychrome stone effects was forgotten during the Middle Ages but revived in Venice around the mid-fifteenth century. The technique consisted in adding a mixture of metal oxides lending specific colourings to the mass of fused glass that was to be blown. The avventurina glass (goldstone or copper-flecked glass) was produced for the first time in Murano in the early seventeenth century and was an amber-coloured glass with small flecks of golden copper.

This vase is in chalcedony glass with refined shades of blue-green and yellow against a brown background.

Bottle and small cup in calcedonio glass with avventurina flecks.

The avventurina glass was named so because of its resemblance to the so-called avventurina quartz.

Etched Glass
The diamond-etching technique applied to blown glass dates to the mid-sixteenth century. The etched decorations are characterized by a repetition of symmetrical motifs; main themes include grotesque patterns, dolphins, cornucopias, foliage.

The Brescian collection mainly includes Baroque etched glass with freer patterns.

Opalescent Glass
In Murano, opalescent glass, with its reddish iridescent effects, was named “girasol” for its resemblance to the iridescent effect of a translucent quality of opal gemstone by the same name: opalescent glass is obtained by inserting lead arsenate crystals into the glass mixture. Opalescent glass was highly fashionable between the end of the seventeenth century and the first two decades of the eighteenth century.
“A penne” decorated glass
The cup and the lid are an example of the decoration “a penne” with milk glass garlands made with a thread of milk glass draped around the hand blown aquamarine glass and then combed with a specific hooked tool. This kind of decoration was adopted by Venetian glassmakers towards the end of the seventeenth century. This type of glassware represents the highest expression of Venetian glassmaking.

The bowl and the lid are also embellished by two-tone flowers and crystal strawberries; the two handles (one of the two was lost and replaced during a restoration intervention) were originally in yellow glass.

Credits: Story

Comune di Brescia, Fotostudio Rapuzzi - Brescia, Chiara De Ambrogio

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