All over the world, Venetian handblown glass is coveted by connoisseurs, and perhaps no other name is more closely associated with this prized material than Barovier & Toso. Amazingly, this family dynasty’s timeless obsession with perfection and innovation has, to date, lasted more than 700 years.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a company, let alone a family dynasty, surviving intact for over seven centuries, but that’s exactly what happened with Barovier & Toso. Specialists in the art of crafting exquisite Venetian glass products, these master glassmakers have, for over 20 generations, kept their ancient craft alive. Not surprisingly, many of the family’s earliest creations now reside in museums and private art collections.
Barovier & Toso is credited with being the world’s sixth-oldest family business still in operation today. Their origin dates back to 1295, when Jacobello Barovier became the first member of the family to begin working in glass (being identified as a “glass master” in official Murano documents). Four years earlier, an edict had been passed requiring glassmakers in Venice to move to Murano – a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon – as all the glass furnaces were being concentrated there. It’s believed that the Barovier family established themselves in Murano in the early 1290s, while later records indicate the Toso family established their foothold in Murano around 1350.
The Barovier’s ability to transform and innovate has kept it strong, as has the passion and dedication of its visionary craftsmen. One such figure is Angelo Barovier, who was active in the business during the mid- to late-1400s. His revolutionary formula made it possible to obtain an unprecedented type of glass, with extraordinary characteristics of extreme transparency and brightness; a material we now refer to as “Venetian crystal”.
As time went by, the Barovier collection of masterpieces became more and more numerous, as did the family line itself. In the period between the late Renaissance (1500s) and the early Baroque era (1600s), there were three Barovier glass masters living and working in Murano, each running their own independent glassworks. Characterised by their unique visual insignias, they were known as the “Angel”, the “Bell” and the “Star”.
The aforementioned Baroque era style, known for its exuberant detailing, challenged these artisan glassmakers to experiment with daring and technically complex designs. Despite everything, the Baroviers were able to survive and thrive, due in no small part 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 on by the industrial revolution, and likewise the Barovier’s time-honoured profession was about to undergo a significant transformation as well. A partnership between the individual Barovier studios laid the foundations for the new ‘Artisti Barovier’ joint company, which afterwards operated under the joint crest of the Star, the Angel, and the Bell (the same three symbols which appear in the company’s crest-like logo to this day). Fast forward to 1936, and we see the initial fusing of the Barovier identity with the Toro lineage, which occurred when Vetreria Artistica Barovier merged with Ferro Toso. A mere six years later the company was officially renamed Barovier & Toso.
At its core, not much has really changed over the centuries with respect to the art of glassblowing. It’s still done by hand, and despite temperatures reaching 1,200 degrees and above, the studio’s skilled artisans still spend countless hours by their furnaces; pinching, cutting, blowing, and twisting incandescent material until sand and fire fulfill their destiny to become glimmering works of glass art.
Barovier & Toso are known for both their illustrious designs and their illustrious clientele. In the early 1980s a French design studio asked for a chandelier to be created for King Al-Saud’s new palace, which came to be known as the Taif Chandelier. Another “shining” example of the company’s artistry comes together in the elegant, almost deceptively simple, Rosati Chandelier (part of the luxurious Rosati collection). This shimmering statement piece is at once modern and classic, anchored by a metal support structure – with visible parts in galvanised gold or polished chrome – and adorned with crystal decorations and covered in Venetian glass in 12 different finishes.
Even now, well into the 21st century, Barovier & Toso keeps the idea of heritage at the forefront. Their creations are one-of-a-kind works in Venetian mouth blown crystal, handcrafted by master Murano artisans who are the custodians of age-old traditions.
In Thailand, these glittering Venetian crystal masterpieces are available exclusively at Seasons, on Ekkamai Soi 20, Sukhumvit 63. For more information, visit seasonsofliving.com.