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Object Timeline

1914

  • Work on this object began.

1920

  • Work on this object ended.

2012

2019

  • You found it!

Hanging Lamp (Italy), 1914–1920

This is a Hanging lamp. It is dated 1914–1920 and we acquired it in 2012. Its medium is glass, wrought iron, enamel. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

This hanging lantern represents a very rare and large example of Venetian mosaic glass from the early part of the 20th century. Its wrought iron holder, with color-filled incised markings, reflects an interest in dragons and other fantastical creatures that became popular in the 1880s after they appeared in displays of Japanese and Chinese objects at the 1878 Paris World's Fair. This lamp is a complex example of mosaic glass based on techniques created in the second half of the 19th century.
Glass smiths in the last centuries BC produced plaques and rods of multicolored glass that they cut and assembled to create mosaic glass. They discovered that, by reheating the glass, the pieces could be fused together to create single objects, often with molds and stamps in the shapes of bowls, plates, and cups. The technique of creating mosaic glass vessels was perfected over time. In Murano, solid and perforated glass rods known as “canes” were manufactured to allow for further refinement of the mosaic technique. By the turn of the 19th century, however, Muranese glassmaking was nearing extinction, with only the manufacture of perforated and solid canes for beadmaking remaining prominent. In 1838, Domenico Bussolin opened a factory to reproduce ancient glass. Although the factory closed just four years later, it importantly produced millefiori canes in a variety of designs and compositions. The reemergence of the millefiori style broadened the scope of possibilities for the mosaic glass beadmaker (who, also thanks to Bussolin, could now work by gaslight, which was faster, cheaper, and produced better colors than lamps fueled by animal fat).
The millefiori technique was used with patterned canes from Murano. Described as “Pompeian” when first exhibited at the 1872 Paris exhibition, the 19th-century millefiori glass was blown in, rather than slumped in as in ancient Roman examples. Although the techniques were different, the visual effect was similar.
Political turmoil, starting with Napoleon’s invasion in 1797 and continuing through the Austro-Hungarian domination of Venice, destroyed the Venetian glass industry in the first half of the 19th century. Not only did Napoleon’s armies burn the factories of Murano, but there was little patronage of Venetian glass. Many techniques were lost. During the Austro-Hungarian era, Venetian factories were forced to work with Austrian glass recipes that produced a clearer, less varied appearance. With the unification of Italy in 1866, a new prosperity and pride in things Italian brought renewed patronage, thanks to the survival and enterprise of the few remaining Venetian glassmakers.
The firms of Antonio Salviati and Fratelli Toso dominated the Murano glass industry in the 1860s and 1870s. In 1877, Salviati’s company, furnace, and shop were bought by the British and he opened a new Murano glassblowing furnace, Salviati Dott. The Barovier brothers, who had worked for Salviati and supervised the production of mosaic tesserae, eventually launched their own firm, Artisti Barovier. Fratelli Toso started out with fairly utilitarian pieces that were comparable to the Artisti Barovier in their production of mosaic glass. By the early 20th century, however, the Tosos emerged as among the most adventurous and skillful practitioners of this art. On a practical level, the Barovier and Toso glass shops were next to each other and many family members intermarried—there was substantial artistic exchange and interpersonal communication, making some attributions difficult.

This object was donated by Donna Weisman. It is credited Gift of Neil and Donna Weisman.

Its dimensions are

H x diam. (a: globe): 37.5 x 30.8 cm (14 3/4 x 12 1/8 in.) H x diam. (b: lid): 10.8 x 23.5 cm (4 1/4 x 9 1/4 in.)

Cite this object as

Hanging Lamp (Italy), 1914–1920; glass, wrought iron, enamel; H x diam. (a: globe): 37.5 x 30.8 cm (14 3/4 x 12 1/8 in.) H x diam. (b: lid): 10.8 x 23.5 cm (4 1/4 x 9 1/4 in.); Gift of Neil and Donna Weisman; 2012-9-1-a/j

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18797267/ |title=Hanging Lamp (Italy), 1914–1920 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=16 September 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>