Last week we were invited to the preview of a dazzling new exhibition that’s just opened at the Museo del Vetro on the island of Murano, showcasing the museum’s extraordinary collection of 19th century glass beads.
Featuring a kaleidoscopic display of almost 15,000 exquisite coloured beads, as well as a stunning jewellery collection of beaded brooches, necklaces and earrings, the show offers a fascinating introduction to the delicate and refined art of bead-making.
Appropriately staged in the museum’s ‘conterie’ gallery (an ex-factory where glass beads were once produced), the exhibition also highlights the important role that the bead-making industry has played in Venetian commerce and culture since the 14th century; as well as coveted decorative objects, glass beads were also used as valuable trading goods, exported in large quantities to the colonies of West Africa, India and the Americas, and used as currency in exchange for products and people from these lands.
Alongside the glittering inventory of historical 19th century beads, the exhibition also features an extensive display of beads produced by contemporary glassworks on the island, including renowned glass masters such as Vittorio Costantini, Igor Balbi and Davide Penso – affirming that this beautiful ancient craft is still thankfully still thriving today.
“The world in a Glass Bead: The Museo del Vetro’s collection of beads 1820-1890” is on view at the Museo del Vetro until 15th April 2018