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MURANO (anc. Ammariuno)

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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 27 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MURANO (anc. Ammariuno), an island in the Venetian lagoon about 1 m. north of Venice. It is 5 M. in circumference, and a large part of it is occupied by gardens. It contained 5436 inhabitants in igoi, but was once much more populous than it is at present, its inhabitants numbering 3o,000. It was a favourite resort of the Venetian nobility before they began to build their villas on the mainland; and in the 15th and 16th centuries its gardens and casinos, of which some traces remain, were famous. It was here that the literary clubs of the Vigilanti, the Studiosi and the Occulti, used to meet. 1 Shakespeare, Henry IV., Part. II. act ii. sc. i : " Falstaff. And for thy walls, a pretty slight drollery, or the story of the prodigal, or the German hunting in waterwork, is worth a thousand of these bed-hangings and these fly-bitten tapestries." 2 It was in this method that the lunettes by Lord Leighton at the Victoria and Albert Museum were painted on the plaster wall. The same painter produced a fresco at Lyndhurst Church, Hants. F.1G. 16.—Pattern in Stamped and Moulded Plaster, decorated with gilding and transparent colours; 15th-century work. have done most of the work and received higher pay. William, an English monk in the adjoining Benedictine abbey of Westminster, received two shillings a day. Walter of Durham and various members of the Otho family, royal goldsmiths and moneyers, worked for many years on the adornment of Henry III.'s palace and were well paid for their skill. Some fragments of paintings from the royal chapel of St Stephen are now in the British Museum. They are delicate and carefully painted subjects from the Old Testament, in rich colours, each with explanatory inscription underneath. The scale is small, the figures being scarcely a foot high. Their method of execution is curious. First the smooth stone wall was covered with a coat of red, painted in oil, probably to keep back the damp; on that a thin skin of fine gesso (stucco) has been applied, and the outlines of the figures marked with a point; the whole of the background, crowns, borders of dresses, and other ornamental parts have then been modelled and stamped with very minute patterns in slight relief, impressed on the surface of the gesso while it was yet soft. The figures have then been painted, apparently in tempera, gold leaf has been applied to the stamped reliefs, and the whole has been covered with an oil varnish. It is difficult to realize the labour required to cover large halls such as the above chapel and the " painted chamber," the latter about 83 ft. by 27 ft., with this style of decoration. In many cases the grounds were entirely covered with shining metal leaf, over which the paintings were executed; those parts, such as the draperies, where the metallic lustre was wanted, were painted in oil with transparent colours, while the flesh was painted in opaque tempera. The effect of the bright metal shining through the rich colouring is magnificent. This minuteness of much of the medieval wall-decoration is remarkable. Large wall-surfaces and intricate mouldings were often completely covered by elaborate gesso patterns in relief of almost microscopic delicacy (fig. i6). The cost of stamps for this is among the items in the Westminster accounts. These patterns when set and dry were further adorned with gold and colours. So also with the architectural painting; the artist was not content simply to pick out the various members of the mouldings in different colours, but he also frequently covered each bead or fillet with painted flowers and other patterns, as delicate as those in an illuminated MS.—so minute and highly-finished that they are almost invisible at a little distance, but yet add greatly to the general richness of effect. All this is neglected in modern reproductions of medieval painting, in which both touch and colour are coarse and harsh—caricatures of the old work, such as disfigure the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, and many cathedrals in France, Germany and England. Gold was never used in large quantities without the ground on which it was laid The town is built upon one broad main canal, where the tidal current runs with great force, and upon several smaller ones. The cathedral, S. Donato, is a fine basilica, of the 12th century. The pavement (of 1111) is as richly inlaid as that of St Mark's, and the mosaics of the tribune are remarkable. The exterior of the tribune is beautiful, and has been successfully restored. The church of St Peter the Martyr (1509) contains a fine picture by Gentile Bellini and other works, and S. Maria degli Angeli also contains several interesting pictures. Murano has from ancient times been celebrated for its glass manufactories. When and how the art was introduced is obscure, but there are notices of it as early as the 11th century; and in 1250 Christoforo Briani attempted the imitation of agate and chalcedony. From the labours of his pupil Miotto sprang that branch of the glass trade which is concerned with the imitation of gems. In the 15th century the first crystals were made, and in the 17th the various gradations of coloured and iridescent glass were invented, together with the composition called " aventurine "; the manufacture of beads is now a main branch of the trade. The art of the glass-workers was taken under the protection of the Government in 1275, and regulated by a special code of laws and privileges; two fairs were held annually, and the export of all materials, such as alum and sand, which enter into the composition of glass was absolutely forbidden. With the decay of Venice the importance of the Murano glass-works declined; but A. Salviati (1816—189o) rediscovered many of the old processes, and eight firms are engaged in the trade, the most renowed being the Venezia Murano Company and Salviati. The municipal museum contains a collection of glass illustrating the history and progress of the art. The island of Murano was first peopled by the inhabitants of Altino. It origiiially enjoyed independence under the rule of its tribunes and judges, and was one of the twelve confederate islands of the lagoons. In the 12th century the doge Vital Micheli II. incorporated Murano in Venice and attached it to the Sestiere of S. Croce. From that date it was governed by a Venetian nobleman with the title of podesta whose office lasted sixteen months. Murano, however, retained its original constitution of a greater and a lesser council for the transaction of municipal business, and also the right to coin gold and silver as well as its judicial powers. The interests of the town were watched at the ducal palace by a nuncio and a solicitor; and this constitution remained in force till the fall of the republic. See Venezia e le sue Lagune; Paoletti, Ii Fiore di Venezia; Bussolin, Guida alle fabbriche vetrarie di Murano; Romanin, Storia documentata di Venezia, i. 41.
End of Article: MURANO (anc. Ammariuno)

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