Venetian Glass Mosaics 1860 – 1917


Out of stock

The 1850s found the city of Venice in a deplorable condition. The long-depressed economy, the insidious damage brought about by the neglect of years of foreign occupation and the destruction by the Austrian bombardment during the failed 1848 revolution had all contributed to the crumbling state of the city and its imposing buildings. However, it was the condition of the antique mosaic decoration of the all but abandoned Basilica of San Marco that most alarmed the Venetians – the mosaics were literally falling from the façades, walls and domes. Not only were Venice’s mosaic treasures deteriorating rapidly but their very existence was being threatened by an unacceptable act of vandalism – mosaic fragments from both San Marco and Santa Maria Assunta on Torcello were being detached and sold to wealthy tourists visiting the city. Antonio Salviati (1816-1890), a lawyer of modest background from Vicenza, found run-down Venice fascinating and decided to move there in 1851. ‘He had the soul of an artist, and the wonders that filled his eyes in Venice each day took possession of his thoughts: he witnessed the decadence of the arts of glassmaking and mosaic, and was filled with the noble desire to bring them back to life.’ He soon found two equally inspired allies – Muranese abbot and glass historian Vincenzo Zanetti (1824-1883) who longed to revive Venice’s historic arts of mosaic-making and glass-blowing, and Antonio Colleoni (1810-1885), the Mayor of Murano, who, embracing another equally compelling point of view, wanted to resurrect the moribund industries in order to provide much needed employment to the people of his island. To that end they set about revitalizing several industries which had been sources of both great wealth and pride in the past. The two most important by far were mosaic-making and glass-blowing. The recovered art of Venetian mosaic in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century is now seen as one of the most important aesthetic achievements of the Victorian-Edwardian era.

Neglected and under-appreciated for decades, surviving mosaics are being cleaned and restored worldwide. Whether on highly visible monuments in major cities or small parish churches in the British countryside and elsewhere, the mosaic achievements of Venetian manufacturers are now treasured for the splendid masterpieces they are.


Antique Collectors' Club


Sheldon Barr