The 4000-Year-Old Murrine Glassmaking Technique

Championed by notable artists from Carlo Scarpa to Marc Newson.

by Colby Mugrabi
Apr 9 2019, 6:15pm


Murrine, a glassmaking technique, first appeared in the Middle East over 4,000 years ago. The process, which refers to the colorful patterns and abstract images made in a glass cane that are revealed only when the rod is cut into thin cross-sections, was later revived by Venetian glassmakers in Murano during the early 15th century.

As a technique championed by notable glass artists (particularly throughout Italy) for hundreds of years, murrine has long been valued for its extreme flexibility, versatility, and distinct ability to render complex, vibrant designs. Once individual murrine, or a collection of murrina, are produced through the careful slicing of glass rods, the pieces are often arranged in a compact pattern and fused together into a single sheet of glass. As such, the completed material reveals a variety of new shapes, patterns, color combinations and abstract images, allowing for further manipulation through the process of glassblowing or the application of controlled heat over a desired mold.

Though the murrine technique dates back thousands of years, the process went through a notable revival in the early 20th century, in part thanks to Italian architect Carlo Scarpa. Scarpa, whose career is often defined by his unique ability to combine new age, mass-manufacturing techniques of the early 20th century with elements of old world craftsmanship—seen most prominently in his renovations of historic buildings—became interested in glassblowing as a young boy growing up in Venice.

To see the full story of the Murrine Glassmmaking Technique on Minnie Muse click here.