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European Virtual Training Centre
for glass arts and techniques

Italy Venetian goblets with reticello


By Silvana Gubetta, translated by Joanne Vanin

The reticello glass technique was invented in Murano around the middle of the sixteenth century; in fact, in 1549 “reticello” (redesello or redexello) is mentioned in the Mariegola or Capitular of Art, together with another type of filigree decoration named “retortoli”. In 1527 the Serena family had already obtained exclusivity to work in retortoli filigree, which they had invented. Since 1687 however, the two types of decorations are designed under the generic name of filigree.
Noteworthy sixteenth and seventeenth century examples of the application of the reticello technique are part of Murano’s Glass Museum collection.

Eighteenth century reticello pieces are well represented in Federico the fourth of Denmark’s collection and are conserved in the Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen.

The technique was resumed once again after the political and economic crisis of the first half of the nineteenth century. This was due to renewed attention dedicated to Murano pieces of the past. In particular, Antonio Sanquirico had some antique filigree glass pieces reproduced, most of which were in retortoli filigree. In fact the term “zanfirico”, used in Murano to refer to retortoli glass is derived from his name “Sanquirico”.

Domenico Bussolin recommenced the production of filigree glass in 1838, followed by Pietro Bigaglia and Lorenzo Graziati in 1845. In particular, Bigaglia’s works, in Biedermeier style are characterized by polychrome reticello filigree. Some examples are on display at Murano’s Glass Museum.

During that period the production of glass in the reticello technique results as being among the most costly on the market, as shown in the price lists from the catalogue published by Salviati in 1867.

Even though the reticello technique was primarily used to produce glass tableware in the first part of the twentieth century, interesting results were also used to create large-scale pieces of geometric form. An example of this is the pink vase dated 1928, which is almost an MVM Cappellin & C. glass works factory brand name.

In the fifties Archimede Seguso reinterpreted these antique retortoli and reticello filigree glass techniques obtaining some highly effective results. Also of note are Dino Marten’s lively juxtapositions of color with reticello insertions.

Nowadays the reticello technique continues to be used in the magnificent reproduction of past examples of traditional glass pieces. It is also reintroduced in glass tableware, characterized by a contemporary design. However, it is in artistic interpretations by glass artists such as Lino Tagliapietra, Richard Marquis and Dante Marioni, to name a few, that we can see an innovative development of the technique, both in form and in proposed colors.

Renewed interest in the reticello technique also emerged thanks to the 2002 Glasmuseet Ebeltoft and Rosenborg Castle competitions. Prizes were awarded solely for the “use of the reticello technique in a modern context” category. No recognition was awarded for the “reproduction of the plate in reticello from the Rosenborg collection” category. None of the replicas submitted satisfied requested standards. This emphasizes the difficulty of the execution of this technique.

There are so many that interpret this technique that it is difficult to name them all.