Venetian glassmakers establishd a guild in 1224 to help them practice their art. They moved their furnaces to the island of Murano in the 13th century because of the fire risk, which actually helped the guild keep their trade secrets and stay alive. When others around them were persecuted and killed, they were not because they practiced such a valuable craft.
The earliest painting featuring a chandelier is Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife (1434) by Jan Van Eyck. You can see the painting, with its ornate chandelier, at the right.
As a reaction to this new taste Italian glass factories in Murano created new kinds of artistic light sources. Since Murano glass was not suitable for faceting, typical work realized at the time in other countries where crystal was used, venetian glassmakers relied upon the unique qualities of their glass. Typical features of a Murano chandelier are the intricate arabeques of leaves, flowers and fruits that would be enriched by coloured glass, made possible by the specific type of glass used in Murano. This glass they worked with was so unique, as it was soda glass (famed for its extraordinary lightness) and was a complete contrast to all different types of glass produced in the world at that time. An incredible amount of skill and time was required to precisely twist and shape a chandelier. This new type of chandelier was called "ciocca" literally bouquet of flowers, for the characteristic decorations of glazed polychrome flowers. The most sumptuous of them consisted of a metal frame covered with small elements in blown glass, transparent or colored, with decorations of flowers, fruits and leaves, while simpler model had arms made with a unique piece of glass. Their shape was inspired by an original architectural concept: the space on the inside is left almost empty since decorations are spread all around the central support, distanced from it by the length of the arms. One of the common use of the huge Murano Chandeliers was the interior lighting of theatres and rooms in important palaces.[
Other Italian chandeliers not originating in Murano were often beaded and had a cage like simple structure which we still see today with the more modern tent and bag chandeliers often made from glass octagons . Older beaded chandeliers were made as beads were less expensive than blown or cut glass and the frames provide a structure for carrying the candles . Repouse' metal was often used to decorate the outsides of the cage as again it was hand decorated and cheaper than gilding . These very old and undamaged chandeliers are hard to find and often come from Tuscany or Emilio Romagna .
We have a selection of Italian antique chandeliers always in stock.