When discussing glass, the term mosaic is used to describe objects or pictures formed by placing small pieces of glass adjacent to one another. When the individual pieces have been fused together then formed into an object, it is called mosaic glass. If small slices or tiles of individual colors are placed side-by-side to form a design or picture, but they are not fused, the result is a glass mosaic. In such %%cases%% the individual slices, called tesserae, are usually held in place by some type of grout. A related term, murrine (murrina is singular; murrine is plural), can be used in different ways, but it usually refers to slices of a complex cane. A cane consists of thin, monochrome rods bundled together and fused to form a polychrome design that is visible when seen in cross section.
- ArtworkMosaic glass vessels were made in Mesopotamia as early as the 15th century BC. Perhaps the most famous Hellenistic examples are hemispherical bowls made by fusing slices of canes into a disk and slumping the disk over a mold. The source of these colorful bowls is unknown. They have been found in many locations, including Greece, Italy, Egypt, and Syria. Mosaic glass bowls were a typical product of glass workshops in the eastern Mediterranean and this example may well have been made there.
- VideoThe term murrine did not come into use until the 3rd quarter of the 19th century. Prior to that time, the term millefiori was used. Today, murrine composed of concentric circles, often resembling stars or flowers, are sometimes called millefiori, literally “a thousand flowers.”
- VideoAs seen in the Hellenistic mosaic glass bowl, murrine may be fused and slumped to form a vessel. Murrine may also be incorporated in blown vessels.
- ArtworkThis Roman wine cup is an example of a new type of mosaic glass introduced in the first century B.C. Instead of having slices of canes fused together, “ribbon” mosaic glass consisted mainly of lengths of flat ribbon-like canes arranged in geometric patterns. After being fused together, the disk could be slumped into or over a mold to create a hollow vessel. The fashion for brightly colored glass lasted until the mid-first century A.D., when colorless glass gained in popularity.
- ArtworkActors in Greek plays employed conventionalized masks to represent specific characters; the distinctive colors and features of the masks made them instantly recognizable. This small plaque, created sometime between 25 B.C. and 75 A.D., portrays the mask of the brothel keeper. Rods of different colors were bundled together, fused, and drawn out into a long cane whose cross section displayed half the face. Glassmakers formed complete, symmetrical faces by combining two slices from the same cane, one of which was simply reversed.
- ArtworkThis murrina, just over 2 centimeters in diameter, was made much like its ancient predecessor. It is considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments of Vincenzo Moretti (1835-1901) and his son Luigi. While working at the Salviati firm in Venice, Vincenzo revived the ancient millefiori (mosaic glass) technique. Examples were displayed at the Paris world's fair of 1878. Because Moretti's works resembled the Roman vasa murrina, vessels made of a mysterious stone, they were called vetri murrini. Thus the term murrine came into use.
- ArtworkThis elaborate tabletop was made in the Vatican Mosaic Workshops and submitted by the papal government to the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867. It consists of a large disk of white marble, inlaid in the pietra dura technique. About 320 types of Hellenistic and Roman mosaic glass fragments are included in the more than 2,000 glass pieces in the table. The ancient glass fragments were carefully reheated and flattened to fit into the complex design.
- ArtworkThis may be the largest Venetian micromosaic in existence. It measures five by seven feet, and it weighs one ton. This panel depicts Venice’s Piazza San Marco and its basilica in intricate detail. Developed in Italy during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the micromosaic technique made use of minute tesserae of colored glass that were arranged to create painterly effects. These tesserae were cut from thin opaque glass rods, of which there were more than 20,000 different tints.
- ArtworkSteuben made very few mosaic glass objects. Frederick Carder, the firm’s manager and chief designer, was interested in re-creating various ancient glassmaking techniques, one of which was mosaic glass. Johnny Jansen is thought to have created most of these objects, which were produced from about 1915 to the early 1920s. This plate remained in Carder’s own collection until the early 1950s.
- ArtworkThis large, unique glass and enamel mosaic, depicting a colorful and lively underwater scene, was made in the studio of Leopold Forstner about 1925. Forstner was strongly influenced by Kolomon Moser and other artists of the Vienna Secession. He studied historical and modern glass mosaics in Ravenna, Rome, and Venice. Intent on reviving the art of mosaics, Forstner returned to Vienna and opened his Wiener Mosaik Werkstätte in 1908, and he added a glassworks in 1912.
- ArtworkDuring the early and mid 20th century, the Venini company of Murano, Italy, revived and reinterpreted many historical techniques, including mosaic glass. Carlo Scarpa, one of Venini’s most successful designers, and Paolo Venini, the company’s owner who was also a designer, began using the technique in the 1930s. This example, with its subtle color combination and strong form, is indicative of Venini’s mosaic work of the 1950s.
- ArtworkStudio glass pioneer Richard Marquis went to the Venini glassworks on Murano in 1969, where he observed and worked with some of the most talented glass masters in the world. He often uses the murrine technique to create complex and often humorous work. Marquis commonly signs his murrine objects with a signature cane that may be his name or an object, such as a teapot.