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December 10, 2004 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-12-10

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Cover Story

THE MAGIC OF MURANO

from page 51

the juxtaposition of the 1950s Italian glass and
1960s American pop art stirred. "It sparked me
onto this investigation and journey into the world
of glass," she says.
That journey has evolved into a collection of almost 500
pieces of Murano glass — considered one of the finest col-
lections in the world — close to 300 of which have been
painstakingly chosen to be included in "Murano: Glass
from the Olnick Spanu Collection," on display at the
Detroit Institute of Arts from Dec. 12 through
LYNNE KONSTANTIN
Feb. 27. Appearing along with it is "Detroit
Special to the Jewish News
Collects Murano Glass," an exhibition of about
20 pieces of Murano glass in local collections.
ews have been settled in Venice since the
Olnick and Spanu will discuss the joys and
13th century, although always with van-
pleasures of collecting 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec.
ous restrictions on where and in what
11, at the DIA, in a conversation moderat-
professions and at times required to wear badges on
ed by DIA Director Graham W.J. Beal.
their clothing identifying them as Jews.
Drawn by the safe haven of surrounding water, an
influx of Jews from Spain and Portugal escaping the
Venetian Glass
Spanish Expulsion arrived in Venice in 1492. In 1516,
Glassmaking has been a celebrated tradi-
the doge, Venice's ruling council, cited the Jews as being
tion in the Venetian lagoon, including the
responsible for the "perversity of the state" and decreed
islands of Venice, Torcello and Murano,
their removal e corpore civitatis, "from the body of the
since the 10th century. By the 13th centu-
city."
ry, glass was a luxury commodity more
They were confined to the
valuable than gold, and the maestri (mas-
small island of Cannaregio in
ter glassblowers) enjoyed semi-noble status
an area called Ghetto Nuovo,
within the Venetian social structure.
which had served as a dump-
Partly in an effort to safeguard the
ing ground for a copper
Venetian glass recipes and techniques,
foundry — the word "ghet-
which perfected filigree ornamentation,
to" derives from the Italian
gem-like enamel hues and effortless light-
getto, meaning "casting," or
ness; and partly to protect the city of
the Venetian geto, meaning
Venice from fire hazards, Venetian officials
"foundry.
issued a decree in 1291 that required all
Soon after, a nearby sec-
glass furnaces to be transferred to the rural
tion of the city, called
island of Murano, where many glassmakers
Ghetto Vecchio, was
already had workshops.
added to house more
Since reaching its zenith in the 15th cen-
incoming Jews, and a
tury, the popularity of Murano glass has
final section, the
diminished and peaked a number of times,
Ghetto Nuovissiomo,
but it was in the 20th century — inspired in
was added in the 17th
part by Stile Liberty, the Italian equivalent of
century.
Art Nouveau — that the island of Murano
In addition to the
again became the world leader in glass design.
gated, guarded
Working in the same way they did almost
700 years ago, glassblowers of
Above right:
the last century honored the
Ghetto Vecchio:
traditions of their forefa-
Entrance stair
thers, but at the same
to the Scola
time kissed the tradi-
Spagnola
tions with the innova-
(Spanish
tions of modern inge-
Synagogue).
nuity. Murano glass
remained distinctly
Muranese, yet its freshness
inspired the roots of what
would become the Studio
Glass Movement, particularly in
the United States.
Erole Barovier, Vetreria
Artistica Barovier C,
Murrine," 1927
Building A Collection
It's this period — the 20th century, creeping
into the 21st — that the Olnick Spanu collection focuses on. In
fact, Olnick points out, the oldest piece of glass in their New York
City apartment is a mezuzah crafted of ancient Roman glass that the

Ghetto 011 The Lagoon

Magical though it is, Venice has the bleak distinction of being
home to the worlds first ghetto.

jr

12/10

2004

56

ghetto, more restrictions were imposed, such as curfew
and profession: Jews were allowed to work at pawn shops,
as Money lenders, in the Jewish printing press, to trade in
textiles or practice medicine. Working as a glassblower was
not an option.
By the middle of the 17th century, the entire ghetto
area housed about 4,000 people in a space equivalent to
2 1 /, city blocks. Although conditions were far from ideal,
the ghetto allowed Jews to freely practice their religion,
and life centered on ritual and custom.
When Napoleon conquered Venice and opened every
ghetto gate in 1797, allowing Jews to live in other areas of
Venice (though they faced a future of anti-Jewish senti-
ment and deteriorating economic conditions), the ghetto
had thrived for more than 2 1/2 centuries. And just before
World War II, there were still about 1,300 Jews in the
ghetto. Of the hundreds who were deport-
ed by the Nazis, only seven returned.
Today, about 600 Jews live in Venice,
with only a few handfuls remaining in the
ghetto, which remains a center of Jewish
activity and history.
The ghetto itself remains virtually
unchanged. All five of the original syna-
gogues remain. Because of the lack of
space, the restriction against the building
of synagogues (thus forced to be hidden
within other structures) and because there
should be no obstructions between the
congregation and the heavens, six-story
((
skyscrapers" were constructed, with the
synagogues housed on the top floors.
Also contributing to the community and
history are kosher restaurants, a Jewish
community center, a Jewish museum, a
Jewish cemetery, an inn and a yeshivah.

Campo (square) of the Ghetto Nuovo

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