What is a muffola, you might ask? And why does one need rights to it?
On July 26, 1497, Marietta Barovier, master glassmaker, applied to Doge Agostino Barbarigo for permission to build a special small furnace or muffola exclusively for her own work, particularly for firing enamel painting. She and her brother Giovanni operated their family glass furnace after their father’s death, but it was Marietta who displayed the more creative bent. She is credited with painting the famous Barovier wedding cup (pictured here), on display at Venice’s Museo del Vetro on Murano, and she also invented the rosetta bead.
This bead, which used the Venetian technique first called murrine and later millefiore, or “a thousand flowers,” employed six layers with white at its center in a star shape, adding layers of blue, white, and brick red. Luckily, Marietta obtained a patent for her precious design. Besides being worn as jewelry, Marietta’s rosetta bead became currency in trade with merchants and monarchs in Europe and even Africa. Some say that Christopher Columbus paid with rosetta beads to procure safe passage on treacherous seas.
Women were technically barred from working in Murano’s glass industry, though Marietta and a small handful of women, such as Hermonia Vivarini and Elena de Laudo, are exceptions whose names come down to us. Both the Barovier and Vivarini families ranked highly in Murano’s hierarchy, which may explain the exceptions to the general rules. Or perhaps their remarkable talents dwarfed any objections that officials voiced.
Lift a graceful cup tonight to honor Marietta, this innovative pioneer, 518 years (and two days) after she earned the right to protect her work.
Marietta’s full story can be read in A Beautiful Woman in Venice, available in paperback or as an ebook at http://kathleenanngonzalez.wix.com/beautifulwoman
(Image of Barovier cup: http://www.basilbaker.com/A_Day_in_the_Life/barovier_marriage_cup.htm
Rosetta beads found in Africa: http://beadcollector.net/cgi-bin/anyboard.cgi?fvp=/openforum/&cmd=iYz&aK=54247&iZz=54247&gV=0&kQz=&aO=1&iWz=0)