« AnteriorContinuar »
pages who are not aware that our own factory of Chelsea, whose productions rival nearly all others in beauty of taste and decoration, emanated from Venice; and there is so much similarity between the best periods of Venetian and Chelsea porcelain, that it is by no means improbable that the same workmen were employed. Both manufactories adopted the anchor as their mark. Venice, or rather Murano, can boast more particularly of its exquisite glass; but although many splendid collections still exist, good specimens, if any, are rare in the bric-à-brac market of Europe. The islands dotted about Venice in the Lagune have great interest. Among them the most considerable, and certainly the most flourishing, was Murano. It formerly possessed the most perfect glass manufactory of Europe, not only during the Middle Ages, but till the beginning of the last century. Mirrors and every species of production, in shape, colour, and design were made there with immense skill and taste. It is said that Henry III. of France, when visiting the manufactory in 1574, ennobled the whole of the workmen. If true, they really
deserved it. In addition to the beauty of the Venice crystal, it was supposed to possess the virtue of detecting poison. The cup or glass shivered to atoms if any envenomed beverage was poured in it-rather a valuable property this at the table of Alexander VI. or the Duchess of Ferrara. In addition to the glass-works the island contains a fine cathedral of the ninth century.
Murano still holds its head above the Venetian waters, and claims a race of men, descendants from the old Venetian glass-workers, who have not quite forgotten the art; nor are form, beauty, and tone of chaste colouring quite banished from their minds. They have worked on patiently, always hoping and believing that Venice would some day awake from her lethargy, and retake her position. Their hopes are so far realized. Murano has produced a workman, by name Lorenzo Pladé, who has discovered, if not precisely all, yet many of the lost secrets, while the energy, love of art, and patriotism of Salviati have gone far to revive the ancient splendour of Venetian glass. And yet beautiful, very beautiful, as are many of the modern productions, to the real connoisseur their date is at once evident. The old Venetian glass was light, bright, and vitreous in appearance, while it displayed the richest possible colours. To a great extent all these merits are retained in the revival at Murano. Venetian glass is that which is commonly named blown glass; thus every piece is an original work of human ingenuity, and the same material is used as in the days of old.
The millefiore, the smelze, perfect imitations of agates, lapis lazuli, the rich ruby colours, the brilliant aventurine, some in imitation of old glass, some more modern imitations, are to be had in London, Paris, and elsewhere, and they are charming. Venetian enamels have always been famous, and among the peculiar productions of Venice may be reckoned the beautiful composition called aventurine, the secret of which is said to be in the possession of a single manufacturer. As regards Venetian mirrors, once unrivalled, they have lost much of their reputation, as foreign competitors produce larger sheets. The annual cost of the substances employed in the manufacture is estimated at 7,000,000f. In the East there is a constant demand for beads and other articles, known as conterie. There are six glassworks in Turin, three in Genoa, five in Milan, thirteen in Florence, eleven in Naples, and twenty in Venice; which fifty-eight works produce articles of the annual value of 60,276,725f. But, alas, it is only too true, as in china, glass, jewelry, and bric-àbrac generally, say nay who will: while science, as regards machinery, electricity, chemistry, and every other “istry," has advanced with rapid strides, , taste, beauty, refinement, elegance of form, outline, and colour—art itself, in fact—have retrograded.
This was strikingly evident in the Paris Exhibition. Splendid as were the productions in modern glass, exquisite as was much of the engraving, beautiful as the modern Wedgwood, Minton, and other pottery, to the true lover of art they bear no possible comparison to the works of other days. I do not say that a vase, a cup, a group, cannot be produced to-day as it was half a century since, true in form and outline. I do not assert that a
glass, true in texture, graceful in form, and lovely as regards engraving, cannot now be, and is not made-indeed, the glass is probably more sparkling and clear, the engraving produced by machinery is perhaps more firm and accurate; but it is all copied from the works of the older times, and invariably is found wanting in that refined grace which does not admit of imitation. They are simply revivals. Fine art is a gift from God, as are genius and all natural talents. A person, in fact, may learn to draw-a school-girl may play a sonata, after long practice, in tolerable time, not taste; but the one would never make an artist, the other never a musician. I have ofttimes met with women positively plain in face, though not in form—the figure of a woman must be good, or she can never be elegant—whose charms of manner and grace made her far more lovely than the belle who could boast faultless features and complexion. So it is with high art; the work of an original genius bears an indescribable, unknown character, that mere manipulative skill can never attain. Let us remember, when we bewail the degeneration of