Cane Slice with Portrait of Christopher Columbus

Object Name: 
Cane Slice with Portrait of Christopher Columbus

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Object Name: 
Cane Slice with Portrait of Christopher Columbus
Accession Number: 
99.3.94
Dimensions: 
Overall Diam: 2.01 cm; Th: .25 cm
Location: 
Not on Display
Date: 
1892
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mrs. Giusy Moretti
Web Description: 
In antiquity and in Renaissance Venice, mosaic or millefiori glass was used to create polychrome patterns. Rods of different colors were bundled together, fused, and drawn out into a long cane whose cross section displayed the intended ornament. The most elaborate works of this type achieved the graphic outline of a portrait. But rarely did they result in the painting-like perfection of this image of Christopher Columbus. A single cane could produce many slices, and other sections of the Columbus cane are known. This cane is considered to be the greatest work achieved by Vincenzo Moretti (1835-1901) and his son Luigi. Vincenzo began his career pulling cane in Pietro Bigaglia's bea factory, and he later worked in the famous company of Antonio Salviati [see 98.3.8] in Venice. It was there that he revived the ancient millefiori technique, which was proudly presented to the public at the Paris world's fair of 1878. Because Moretti's works resembled the Roman vasa murrina, vessels made of a mysterious stone, they were called vetri murrini. The Christopher Columbus murrina was probably made to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America.
Department: 
Provenance: 
Moretti, Giusy, Former Collection
1999
Primary Description: 
Cane Slice with Portrait of Christopher Columbus. Multi-colored transparent to opaque glass. Bust of Christopher Columbus facing 3/4 left on purple ground with bend of light purple surrounding.
Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano
Venue(s)
Smithsonian American Art Museum 2021-03-19 through 2021-09-26
Amon Carter Museum of American Art 2021-11-14 through 2022-02-06
Ca' Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art 2022-03-26 through 2022-07-24
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is organizing a major exhibition entitled, "Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano". This traveling exhibition and its accompanying catalogue will be the first cross-media survey of the American Grand Tour experience of late 19th century Venice, including fine and decorative arts. The focus of this project is the long-renowned glassmaking industry on the Venetian island of Murano and its remarkable growth between 1860 and 1915. This Venetian Glass Revival coincided with a surge in Venice's popularity as a destination for American tourists, leading to frequent depictions of Italian glassmakers and glass objects by leading American artists. Though shifts in taste later denigrated Venetian glass vessels, beads, and mosaics as derivative or kitsch, this project examines the reasons these colorful and exquisitely crafted objects and their creators became subjects of paintings, etchings, and drawings. It then traces the international impact of this artistic cross-pollination to American households, schools, and museums. This study hinges on the juxtaposition of works of Italian glass with specific paintings and prints by John Singer Sargent, James MacNeill Whistler, William Merritt Chase, Maurice Prendergast, Thomas Moran, and others. International travel was central to these artists' practice, and their experiences of Venice followed established patterns, including visits to glass factories. They subsequently developed distinct styles and medium specialties, but this show explores Venice as a common thread in their work and explains the significance of glass within these images. Though glittery colors and flamboyant sculptural flourishes made Venetian glass seem frivolous to later eyes, these objects originally connoted appreciation for beauty, respect for history and science, and, on a societal level, commitment to political self-determination and economic individualism. Collecting of Venetian glass expressed these values, and when references to Murano's products and craftspeople appear in works of fine art, they reinforce statements of identity, or, in some cases, critique and challenge them. Curated by Crawford Alexander Mann III., SAAM's curator of prints and drawings, "Sargent, Whistler and Venetian Glass" will be presented at SAAM in Washington, DC from March 19 to September 26, 2021; at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, TX from November 14, 2021 to February 6, 2021; and at the Ca' Pesaro Galleria Internazionale d'Arte Moderna in Venice, Italy from March 26, 2022 to July 24, 2022.
The Techniques of Mosaic Glass, Millefiori and . . . Filligree (2001) illustrated, p. 24, #5;
The Techniques of Mosaic Glass, Millefiori and ... Filligree (2001) illustrated, p. 24 (no. 5); BIB# AI53883