All over the world, Venetian mouth-blown glass is coveted by connoisseurs, and perhaps no other name is more closely associated with this precious material than Barovier & Toso. Amazingly, this family dynasty’s timeless obsession with perfection and innovation has, to date, lasted over 700 years.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a business, let alone a family dynasty, surviving intact for more than seven centuries, but that’s exactly what happened with Barovier & Toso. Specialists in the art of making exquisite Venetian glass products, these master glassmakers have, for more than 20 generations, maintained their ancient craft. Not surprisingly, many of the family’s early designs are now in museums and private art collections.
Barovier & Toso is considered the sixth oldest family business in the world still in operation today. Their origin dates back to 1295, when Jacobello Barovier became the first member of the family to start working with glass (identified as “master glassmaker” in official Murano documents). Four years earlier, a decree forced the glassmakers of Venice to move to Murano – a series of islands connected by bridges in the lagoon of Venice – because all the glass furnaces were concentrated there. It is believed that the Barovier family settled in Murano in the early 1290s, while later records indicate that the Toso family settled in Murano around 1350.
Barovier’s ability to transform and innovate has kept it strong, as has the passion and dedication of its visionary artisans. One of these characters is Angelo Barovier, who was active in the business in the mid to late 1400s. His revolutionary formula made it possible to obtain an unprecedented type of glass, with extraordinary characteristics of transparency and extreme brightness; a material that we now call “Venetian crystal”.
Over time, the collection of Barovier masterpieces grew in size, as did the family line itself. Between the late Renaissance (1500s) and early Baroque era (1600s), three Barovier master glassmakers lived and worked in Murano, each running their own independent glassworks. Characterized by their unique visual insignia, they were known as the “Angel”, “Bell”, and “Star”.
The aforementioned Baroque era style, known for its exuberant detailing, challenged these glass craftsmen to experiment with bold and technically complex designs. Even so, the Baroviers were able to survive and prosper, largely due to the fact that they fiercely protected the wealth of glass-making secrets they had accumulated over time.
By the mid-1800s, the world was in a state of upheaval, due to the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution, and likewise, the age-old profession of the Baroviers was about to undergo a significant transformation as well. A partnership between the various Barovier studios laid the foundations for the new joint company “Artisti Barovier”, which then operated under the common crest of the star, the angel and the bell (the same three symbols that appear in the corporate crest logo to this day). Fast forward to 1936, and we see the initial merging of the Barovier identity with the Toro lineage, which occurred when Vetreria Artistica Barovier merged with Ferro Toso. Barely six years later, the company was officially renamed Barovier & Toso.
Basically, not much has really changed over the centuries when it comes to the art of glassblowing. It’s still done by hand, and despite temperatures reaching 1,200 degrees and more, the workshop’s skilled artisans still spend countless hours near their ovens; pinching, cutting, blowing and twisting glowing materials until sand and fire fulfill their destiny to become shimmering glass works of art.
Barovier & Toso are known for both their illustrious designs and their illustrious clientele. In the early 1980s, a French design studio commissioned a chandelier for King Al-Saud’s new palace, known as the Taif Chandelier. Another “shining” example of the company’s artistry can be found in the elegant, almost deceptively simple Rosati chandelier (part of the luxurious Rosati collection). This shimmering centerpiece is both modern and classic, anchored by a metal support structure – with exposed parts in galvanized gold or polished chrome – and embellished with crystal embellishments and topped with Venetian glass in 12 different finishes.
Even today, well into the 21st century, Barovier & Toso keeps the idea of heritage at the forefront. Their creations are unique works in mouth-blown Venetian crystal, handcrafted by master craftsmen of Murano, guardians of centuries-old traditions.
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