16th-Century Filigrana Glass

Unknown Artist, “Covered Goblet,” c. 1575-1625, Murano, Corning Museum of Glass (http://collection.cmog.org)

Lattimo and cristallo glass was also used in conjunction with another method of glassmaking called filigrana, or canna filigrana. Canna means a cane of circular glass that can be of a single or multiple colors, transparent, or opaque. Filigrana, or filigree, is a term to describe transparent glass with opaque or colorful threads or ribbon-like decoration.[i] Two styles of filigrana are reticello and retortoli. Reticello, or reticulated glass, is a decorative style that uses a web design to form a mesh effect. It is created using a “network of glass threads, etchings, cutting; or glass that is blown into a metal mesh frame.”[ii] Ritortoli is filigree that is twisted into spiral-like forms as decorations. Filigrana glass designs became popular after the first quarter of the sixteenth century, when enameled and gilt cristallo works went out of style.[iii] However, glassmakers used the filigrana techniques to update the cristallo method by combining with lattimo to create highly detailed glass objects beginning around 1527.

One piece called Covered Goblet with White-striped Decoration, located at the Corning Museum of Glass, was made in either the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century in Venice. The bowl of the glass is held supported a stem of seven layers the decline in size. The stem is connected to a simple, lipped foot. The cover of the goblet mimics the stem of the base, but is more understated. This goblet displays the retortoli technique, as it features the many cables of lattimo glass that are combined with a pure cristallo base. The effect is a web-like, mesh pattern. The motif also includes long, thin white stripes that begin at the top of the goblet’s cover and end at the base of the foot, creating a unique design.


[i] “Venini: Working Techniques”

[ii] Pickvet, 179

[iii] Charleston, 96