New York State’s very own Corning Museum of Glass is making headlines after one of its resident advisers published a piece that may reveal the secrets of Renaissance-era Venetian glassblowing.
According to local Albany news affiliate KTTC, William Gudenrath, an adviser and teacher at the Corning Museum of Glass, has created an online resource in which he lays out a theory that explains the methods of Venetian glassblowers.
While today’s glassblowers are privy to advanced technology, such as methane-fired furnaces and electric-powered kilns, the Venetians were not as fortunate.
Despite having few tools at their disposal, Venetian glassblowers are known for their historically great artistry. Gudenrath has been researching these techniques for years, and his most recent piece, “The Techniques of Renaissance Venetian Glassworking,” aims to unveil their secretive methods.
“It’s just amazing to me that they did what they did in those conditions,” Gudenrath said.
The invention of glassblowing coincided with the establishment of the Roman Empire in the first century B.C., which enhanced the spread and dominance of this new technology. The art form remained fairly stagnant until Venetians began making pieces that were unlike anything people had seen at the time.
According to “The Techniques of Renaissance Venetian Glassworking,” most of these infamous pieces were made between the years 1500 and 1700, commonly referred to as “the golden age of Venetian glass.”
During this period, Venetian glasshouses supplied luxury art to royalty, aristocracy, and other wealthy individuals. Their glassblowing methods were so secretive that those who divulged them to the public faced the prospect of death.
“Industrial espionage and that sort of thing was taken very seriously,” Gudenrath added.
Eventually, other European nations began to create their own glassblowing methods, weakening Venice’s monopolization of the market. While Venetian glassblowing did enjoy a minor rebirth in the mid-19th century, most of the original and secretive methods had been lost by that time.
Gudenrath’s comprehensive assessment of these methods is purely theoretical, but he believes it is the first piece of research that provides feasible explanations as to how Venetian glass art was made.
“The Techniques of Renaissance Venetian Glassworking” can be found in its entirety on the Corning Museum of Glass’s official website.