Like many other islands, Murano is a place
of mystery and wonder. And it is here that our story takes place. According to a contemporary document, one Domenico, a “fiolario”, was making bottles on Murano in 982 AD.
In 1291, the glass-makers’ furnaces were moved from Venice to Murano.
Officially, this was done to reduce the risk of fire in the city but, in truth, it was to keep trade secrets away from prying eyes.
Conjuring from fire and a mix of powdered chemicals a material that shows little trace of its original components and, what’s more, reflects the light with the nonchalance of precious stones, is no mean achievement.
At this point, the Barovier family tree was
already flourishing. Indeed, the Angelo Barovier who made such a mark on the glass-making tradition was not the first documented “Berrovieri” or “Barovieri”.
The son of Jacopo, and grand-son of Bartolomeo,
Angelo was a descendant of one “Jacobellus
Beroerius”, who was mentioned in a document dated 20 February 1324.
An ancient volume refers to the fact that, on the island of Murano, the wonder of making glass that lacked none of the brilliance of crystal had been achieved.
And this was precisely where Angelo excelled.
For, in about 1450, he developed what observers
referred to as a “crystalline glass”, the “marvel” of a blown film of crystal in perfect harmony with Renaissance taste, light, clear and pure. The Barovier dynasty continued to flourish however.
In 1866, another Angelo Barovier was appointed to the position of Camerlengo (treasurer) of the Council of Murano.
Appropriately enough, Angelo worked under the sign of the “Angel” - one of the symbols of the golden years of several centuries previously. Around the middle of the century, the antiquarian Antonio Sanquirico commissioned several Murano master glass-makers to reproduce some ancient filigree patterned glass that he owned.
This was just a hint of what lay ahead. For this was the beginning of a “second” Renaissance for Murano.
In 1866 Antonio Salviati, a lawyer from nearby
Vicenza, gave up his practice and founded a firm of mosaic makers. Around the middle of the century, the antiquarian Antonio Sanquirico commissioned several Murano master glass-makers to reproduce some ancient filigree patterned glass that he owned.
In 1866 Antonio Salviati, a lawyer from nearby. Vicenza, gave up his practice and founded a firm of mosaic makers. When he later diversified into glass, he asked Giovanni
and Antonio Barovier - along with their sons - to be his master glass-makers. This was the Unification period, when the various regions were coming together to form the nation of Italy.
Venice and the Veneto area were no exception. The sense of a fresh start being made was all-pervading, giving a boost also to the art of blown glass on Murano. In 1878, all the Barovier family members got together to form the company Fratelli Barovier. Some years
later, with the business now being one of the most important on Murano, this name was changed to “Artisti Barovier”.
Whatever the name, the Barovier tradition of pushing back the frontiers of glassmaking continued apace. At around this time, “Artisti Barovier” were granted patents not just for a “mother-of-pearl glass” but also for “cornelian red glass made without using gold”.
Later “Artisti Barovier” moved to number 28 on
Rio dei Vetrai, which is the company HQ to this day.
In 1913, at the Ca’ Pesaro Exhibition, Giuseppe
Barovier exhibited eleven “murrini”, which consisted of sections of colored glass joined together using heat to form a mosaic-effect. Sensing considerable potential for a successful partnership with the Barovier company, artists of the day- such as Vittorio Zecchin and Teodoro Wolf Ferrari - enthusiastically
accepted commissions to work with Barovier, a tradition that is still going strong.
In 1919, “Artisti Barovier” changed its name
to “Vetreria Artistica Barovier&C. sas”.
Aged thirty, and with a classical education as well as active service in the World War I behind him, Ercole Barovier became managing director. Together with Giacomo Cappellin, Vittorio Zecchin and Napoleone Martinuzzi, Ercole Barovier has left behind a heritage of beautiful glass.
Tireless in his experimentation, he was particularly intrigued by the range of potential colors and the uses to which the material could be put.
In 1929, his work was featured in the magazine
Domus, which had been founded by Gio Ponti a short time earlier. Moreover, Ercole Barovier is credited with the introduction into Murano of thick, heavy glass. The popularity in the 1930s of matte glass, unusual colors and gold and silver decoration, led Ercole Barovier to invent a process for “heat-induced coloring
without fusion”, one of the most exciting recent developments in the field.
This was not a one-off event. Patents for new
developments came thick and fast in the years
In 1936, with the merger between Vetreria
Artistica Barovier&C. and SAIAR Ferro Toso,
the Barovier&Toso was born: two complementary
companies melding their specific expertise in the field of illumination and artistic objects in a single industrial project. Thanks to this renewed energy, Barovier&Toso remains a protagonist also in large projects, a sector
that will become one of the company’s strong points.
Although the strife of World War II plagued
production, Barovier&Toso continued in its activity and, for this very reason, was ready to capture all opportunities during the post-war era as the world economic system made its recovery.
Ercole Barovier continued proposing his creations and introduced new production techniques, while in the field of illumination, Barovier&Toso renewed the theme of the contemporary lamp. During 1960s, thanks to the
company’s renowned creative and technological capacity, collaborations with great architects and the realisation of light installations were increasingly common: the lamp in Place Victoria in Montreal - the largest of its
kind in the world at the time - is just one example. Another landmark project was the 1980 Taif: a chandelier designed by Angelo Barovier and created for the King of Saudi Arabia, which within a few years became the icon of the wonderful world of lighting. A new classic, that became the hallmark of Barovier&Toso.
It was during the years of the second economic boom that the company further expanded its markets and clientele. To guarantee the authenticity of these products to its clients worldwide, various trademarks were added to the already recognised industrial patents:
Barovier&Toso®, Emptores®, Rugiada®, Rugiada
oro®, Cristallo Rugiada®, Farfalloni®, Spiragoto. During the same period, the company was committed to more light-hearted projects that were always linked to tradition, giving rise to the Goti de Fornasa®, glasses that masters and apprentices alike had always
made for themselves. These are personal objects that express the skill and creative talent of the individual glassmaker: each one is unique. The Goti became an enormously successful collection - subjected to numerous attempts to copy them in all corners of the globe - and
later also produced in the Goti Luminosi® version. The strong vitality of the company and its loyalty to historic values of artistic art inspired Angelo Barovier to create a Museum, where historic family and company pieces could be displayed: it was 1995.
The devastating economic crisis of the first decade of the new century presented another challenge for Barovier&Toso, which was overcome thanks to the careful planned marketing strategies and continual stylistic innovations: during these years the concept of the traditional Venetian chandeliers with the use
of unusual and bold colours and the destructuring of the concept of the lamp itself arose.
Just another example of a Barovier&Toso
being synonymous with innovation.
Designers: Angelo Barovier, Ercole Barovier, Giorgia Brusemini, Rodolfo Dordoni, Marco Mencacci, Sara Pedrali, Alessandro Piva, Roni Plesl, Daniela Puppa, Francesca Martelli, Franco Raggi, Umberto Riva, Marc Sadler, Matteo Thun, Giusto Toso.