Bonjour mes belles!! I have not been kidnapped as several of you have asked! I have been distracted ( or is that driven to distraction?) sourcing old haberdashery items for a period drama set in the late 1800s that is to be screened on TV in the UK next year.
You all know of my passion for Venice and its amazing history - and recently, in my odd quiet moment, I have escaped work to read "The Glassblower of Murano" by Marina Fiorat. It`s the kind of book that I cannot bear to put down; but then I cannot bear to read it either as it will be over too quickly! I hope you know what I mean.
When we took the vaporetto ( water-bus) from Venice to the Island of Murano in Venice last year I hated the brash-looking glass shops which now line the one main street. But I could still feel the underlying, immensely enchanting history of the place as we wandered through the old crumbling buildings. I wanted to know more - and this book certainly fuels my passions, and meets that need.
In the 1200s the Council of Ten that ruled Venice banished all of the glass production to the island of Murano because of the fire hazard to a city built predominantly of wood.
The glassmakers were literally kept as prisoners on Murano for the fear that other countries would discover the 'secrets' of their glass creations. The artists, known as "maestri", were forbidden to practise their craft in any other place. To ensure that the maestris' secrets were never revealed, harsh sentences were meted out to individuals who leaked secrets to foreigners or left Venice without official permission.
The best maestri produced glass daggers for the Council of Tens assassins - daggers with deadly points that could enter the skin with no effort at all. Each was designed so that the shaft handle would snap off after the fatal wound had been delivered and hardly a mark would remain.
Such intrigue and danger!!!
Venetian mercury mirrors of the 17th and 18th centuries were highly prized and it was said that the best mirrors were as smooth and as still as the Venice lagoon at midnight. The meastri creators of these mercury mirrors were highly guarded and many of them went to early graves, their glass-making secrets still with them, as the mercury they used to silver the looking glasses entered their lungs and they died young.
In the 17th century King Louis of France, wanted to decorate his palace at Versailles with the most extravagant splendour, demanding only the very best glass for the amazing Hall of Mirrors.
In order to maintain the integrity of his philosophy which required that all items used in the decoration of Versailles be made in France, Jean-Baptiste Colbert enticed several Venetian glass makers to move to France and make mirrors at the 'Manufacture Royale de Glaces de Miroirs'. According to legend the government of the Venetian Republic, in order to keep its monopoly on its glass making traditions, sent agents to France to poison the workers whom Colbert had brought to France. More intrigue...............
It is rare that I find genuine old mercury glass pieces truffling around the brocantes. But this morning I did happen to stumble on this amazing 19th century mercury- glass Vierge figure.
Reproduction mercury glass, with its harsh,cold light, is in plentiful supply, but this figurine is a geuine period piece. It has a warm, deep twinkling reflection, the mercury having gently distressed and worn with age ..............as smooth as the lagoon at midnight!
Is this my subconcious at work - or is Venice calling me again?
A la prochaine mes belles.......