1 pack of nails with Murano blown glass head; colour of the head transparent crystal glass.Inside 1 package of nails with Murano blown glass head there are 25 units of product.
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In the 17th century Murano had around 8,000 inhabitants, various privileges, from tax exemption to permission to marry noble maidens, sumptuous palaces, churches and a per capita income of €124,425 (calculated to date).
But where did all this wealth come from, on a small island that initially lived exclusively on fishing? From the Serenissima's ability to preserve and prevent with all available means that the secrets of glass production were taken off the island, which was almost an hour's boat ride from the centre of Venice and from where the factories and the glassworkers' guild were moved as early as 1291, due to the constant fires.
Today, as in the past, Murano's economy is faced with many problems, but the most important is foreign competition, China and Romania today, Bohemia and France yesterday.
The Republic held back its craftsmen, attracted by the offers of foreign powers who competed for them by the weight of gold, showering them with privileges. But if anyone was flattered by the riches on offer, the Serenissima was able to remedy the situation, as we shall see later. But how much wealth did this art produce?
To understand this, let us start with the "golden ducat", eight million golden ducats was the "turnover" of Murano glass.
Doing some calculations, eight million ducats multiplied by 3.5 grams of gold (the weight of the ducat) = 28 million grams, which at today's prices corresponds to about € 995 million. If we divide the ducats by the 8,000 inhabitants, that is € 124,425 per inhabitant. Today, the same sector has a turnover of about €120/130 million a year (source: Confindustria) and Murano has 5,200 inhabitants, so if we do the same, the figure would be €25,000 per person, including children.
Murano experienced its first collapse in the mid-1600s when Ferdinando de' Medici convinced some master glassmakers to open a furnace in Pisa. The success of this first "export of technique" was at the origin of a small diaspora whose dimensions began to cause concern in Venice. Shortly afterwards, in 1664, Louis XIV set out to carry out the project devised by his trusted architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, to build a gallery of unprecedented splendour in his new palace at Versailles, the Galerie des Glaces, the Gallery of Mirrors.
Versailles Gallery of MirrorsFor this ambitious project, the Sun King gave orders to steal the secret of Venice. At any cost.
Venice found itself involved in a veritable "war of the mirrors".
"In 1665, in Murano, on a rainy night in May, three men are talking in low voices in the shadows of a sotoportego.
Two are dressed in sober dark clothes. The third reveals the embroidered sleeve of an elegant tailcoat under a broad black cloak.
All three look around with long, suspicious glances.
As soon as they are sure that no one is following them, they wave to a gondolier who silently approaches and takes them to a boat moored further away.
Everything happens so quickly that the agents of the Council of Ten, who are in charge of guarding the island, do not notice anything.
It was only at dawn the next day that the Serenissima police began to hunt the three men in a chase that led them from Ferrara to Turin and Lyon, without ever managing to stop them. A few days later, the three fugitives reach Paris.
But who are these mysterious characters?
The elegant man is a French aristocrat, a spy entrusted with a secret mission by Louis XIV's powerful finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert.
His task is not easy, but he has been ordered to carry it out at any cost. He has to ensure that he brings to Paris a small group of glassworkers he has managed to recruit in Murano.
The two from that night are the first to leave.
It took all his skill to convince them to overcome their fears with miraculous promises of money and the good life."
(Clare Colvin, "The Palace of Reflections" ed Corbaccio 2004)
Truly amazing promises, knowing that in 1658, master glassmaker Giovan Domenico Battaggia, employed by Ferdinando de Medici, was found dead for reasons about which there are two official versions. The first is that of the family doctor, a Venetian, according to whom the death was due to 'this air of Pisa, which in the heat season is very bad and painful'. The second is corroborated by a written confession by Bastian de' Daniel, who speaks of a poison given to him by the Inquisitors of the Serenissima 'with which I also killed two other workers, as is now public knowledge in Murano'. Whatever the truth about that death, between 1659 and 1660, all those who had fled to Tuscany returned to the lagoon. Other similar deaths occurred during the "war of the mirrors" and the State inquisitors did everything they could to recover the fugitives by sending spies to Paris, writing false letters from their wives and poisoning. In 1667, the Venetian ambassador himself went so far as to poison two glassmakers from the Serenissima who had moved with their technological knowledge to the French capital, and in the end the survivors returned to Venice terrified.
("The secret services of Venice" Paolo Preto, 1994).
Behind this 'war', fought with no holds barred, between spies, escapes and poisons, there are always the usual motives: money and power.
The Sun King's minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, had foreseen the business of transforming sand into gold coins, so much so that in October 1665 he set up the Manufacture royale des Glaces in Paris, destined to become the Manufacture Saint Gobain, and the following year, following the instructions of the Murano glassmakers, the first Venetian-style mirror was produced in France.
Until then, Venice held a monopoly on the manufacture of mirrors, an amalgam of mercury and tin coated in glass, which made them unique, clear and transparent.
Venice sold them all over Europe, earning enormous sums of money.
In France, the average price of a Venetian mirror was more or less equivalent to three years' work by a craftsman, and only the very rich could afford it. Inventories show that a Murano mirror was worth more than a Raphael painting and it is said that many people were willing to sell land and property to own one.
For Venice it was a considerable income, but for French finances it was a drain.
So Colbert's ambitious plan was to break the Venetian monopoly and, by creating a royal factory, ensure France's supremacy in the production of luxury goods, from silks to tapestries and lace.
But there was a further reason for the manufacture of mirrors: the Sun King's "whim".
In turn, Venice did not want to lose a privileged and rapidly expanding market. Within a few years, Murano experienced "a serious crisis of identity and production, which in turn was the harbinger of new massive emigrations that continued throughout the 18th century, also involving the production of conterie (lampwork beads) and margherite (perforated beads)".
But where did this crisis come from? From the miscalculation (yesterday as today) that had led some Muranese to accept the commercial offers of a foreign power, the lure of easy money, exporting their design and teaching some manufacturing secrets.
"Nothing new under the sun", would be the words of those who know the origins of the current crisis, but once they had learned these secrets and started production in France, the French dismissed the Murano workers, accusing them of being "inconstant, fickle and of bad character". The refugees returned home, but not the market shares.
By this time the French had learned to make their own mirrors and the Galerie des Glaces in the Palace of Versailles was completed in 1682.
73 metres long, 10.50 metres wide and 12.30 metres high. More than three hundred mirrors form seventeen arched windows overlooking the garden, matched by as many false doors which by day reflect the light coming in from outside, cancelling out any division between inside and outside. At night, illuminated by thousands of candles, they reflect the splendour of the furnishings, but also the glitter of the silks, golds and precious stones that adorn the sumptuous robes of the gentlemen and ladies, multiplying the luxury and wealth of the court to infinity, in a play of illusions.
The Sun King has achieved what he wanted.
When he makes his appearance, walking down the long gallery, everyone will be able to recognise, in those innumerable dazzling reflections of his image, the visible manifestation of his power.
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