Fragments of Elizabethan luxury glass made in Venice

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Fragments of Elizabethan luxury glass made in Venice

During the 16th and 17th centuries the glass-makers working on the island of Murano, Venice, brought their art to new heights, creating vessels of quite extraordinary technical skill and delicacy. Their products were famed throughout Europe and were expensive luxuries, often costing ten times or more the price of north European vessels. Being so very delicate, these vessels almost always survive in the archaeological record as tantalizing fragments.

The three examples shown here, all found in Exeter, are typical of Elizabeth's reign, although the style also extended into the beginning of the 17th century. The largest piece is the foot of a beaker made of clear colourless glass, now weathered. After the components of the beaker had been blown the hot surfaces of the pieces were overlain with fine strands of opaque white glass (lattimo), which was then fused into the body by the technique of marvering. The two smaller groups of fragments come from wine glasses which display variations on this technique: first the use of twisted cables of threads, alternating with plain white bands (a fil), likewise marvered into the body, and second the use of bundles of white threads (a retortoli), twisted into cable bands, applied in relief onto the surface.

Acknowledgments: RAM Museum Exeter Archaeology

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