European trade beads history and dating
The Guild of Glassmakers, Ars Fiolaria, established in 1224, came under the direct authority and protection of the Republic of Venice.
The positive result of this direct management and the concentration of the glassmakers in a single location was a cross fertilisation of ideas and techniques, and an increased artistic fervour, which quickly made Venice the principle glass producer within Europe.
On Murano, as they had done with the Arsenale (the fortified complex of state owned shipyards which at its height occupied some fifteen percent of Venice), the Venetian authorities aimed to guard what was now seen as a vital industry by keeping it in isolation – albeit in a gilded cage.
Incentives and conditions for employees were regulated by the Guild setup to control the glass making industry.
This resulted in an influx of fleeing Byzantine glassmakers into Venice bringing with them skills and techniques that were totally new to Europe.
By the end of the century, Venetian glassmakers had adapted many of these imported processes, alongside their own, to obtain unique results.
During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period this was a political organ of the Republic of Venice, made up of adult males from the aristocracy with a life long hereditary right to sit on the council.
It functioned mainly as a pool from which members could be drawn for other councils and committees of State, such as the Senate, and the more secretive Council of Ten (established 1310), all under the chairmanship of the Doge.
By the 14th century, glass makers were allowed to wear swords, enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the Venetian state, and found their daughters married into Venice’s most affluent families.
Several centuries were to pass before the artisans of the Venetian area embarked on what was to become a fully-fledged and unique period of decorative glass production, evolving over time to reach world renown and for a period a virtual monopoly industry in Europe.
This shift in emphasis was largely due to Venice’s growing status as a cultural bridge between the west and the east.
This was based on its geographic location on the Adriatic – facing the Balkans, and with the Middle East and Asia to the south and east respectively; the fact it was strategically well appointed on a series of islands with a strong navy and merchant fleet; and had a basic devotion to trade, and the power and influence that trade brought them.
This role was initially focused on those countries bordering the Mediterranean, but also embodied the Holy Lands and the Orient.