Murano is a group of islands in the Venetian Lagoon near Venice, Italy. Murano and Venice have been important centers of glass production for more than one thousand years. There, artisans have supported a tradition of quality glassmaking that dates back to Roman times. After a devastating fire, Venetian officials decreed in 1291 that all the glass furnaces would be removed from the city of Venice and relocated to the less-populated Murano. Craftsmen developed unsurpassed glass techniques and recipes, and glass production in Murano flourished.

Until the 1500s, Murano glass had little market competition, as its recipes and techniques were held as trade secrets. Eventually, however, artisans in other countries acquired the technical know-how. Regional styles and markets soon developed outside Murano, offering less expensive alternatives to the Italian products. As a result of market competition and political forces, the glass industry in Murano eventually declined in both quality and output.

Murano glassmaking experienced a revival during the 1850s and 1860s, and new glass furnaces opened on the island. In 1861, the Glass Museum of Murano was founded as a school of design. Examples of historic glassware became study models that inspired glassmakers to emulate and reclaim once-famous styles and techniques.

By 1910, progressive artists and designers who challenged traditional styles began to work with the glassmakers in Murano. The lively interaction between artists and craftsmen nurtured an inventive spirit that developed and revitalized the industry.

Appointing leading artists and designers to head the workshops fostered invention. During architect Carlo Scarpa’s twenty-year tenure at the Venini workshops, he resurrected long forgotten techniques and glass formulas. His simple vessels became a standard for international design throughout the twentieth century. Work designed by architects Tomaso Buzzi, Gae Aulenti, Ludovico Diaz de Santillana, Massimo Vignelli, and Ettore Sottsass are displayed along with vessels created by painters and designers such as Vittorio Zecchin, Tapio Wirkkala, Dino Martens, and Laura Diaz de Santillana. Drawn from the collection of Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu, these stunning works are among the finest examples of Murano glass in the world.