Millefiori Bead

Notice of Upcoming Content and Access Change

The Museum is working on the future of our online collections access. A new version will be available later in 2023. During this transition period, the current version of the Collections Browser may have reduced functionality and data may be not be updated. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. For any questions or concerns, please contact us.

What is AAT?

The Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) (r) is a structured vocabulary for generic concepts related to art and architecture. It was developed by The Getty Research Institute to help research institutions become consistent in the terminology they use.Learn More

Object Name: 
Millefiori Bead
Place Made: 
Accession Number: 
Overall H: 3.7 cm, Diam (max): 1.1 cm
Not on Display
Web Description: 
The most widely known type of Venetian-made lamp beads is mosaic or millefiori (thousand flowers) beads. The mosaic technique, which the Venetians took from the Romans, was reinvented around the 14th century, but it was not used to a great extent until the 19th century. The beads were decorated with pieces of compound and composite canes. The matrix of the bead was usually very dark blue or almost black, and many murrine (slices of complex canes) were laid upon it to form the allover decorative motif. The Venetians employed cane slices with such great precision that they almost eliminated the space between them, greatly obscuring the dark matrix. Millefiori beads were some of the most popular beads for the African trade, and Venetian beadmakers developed an enormous range of designs, from true floriated to cellular examples in various shapes, to satisfy diverse stylistic demands. Women were the makers of these beads in Venice, as they were of most lamp-made beads. It was a cottage industry, in which women could produce up to two beads per minute, thus allowing millefiori beads to attain a large scale of production as demand increased. The bead shown here is particularly attractive. It was made with two types of murrine that differ both in color and in form, producing a well-conceived and symmetrical pattern. The floriated and star-shaped cross sections of the murrine created what is considered to be a true millefiori or flowerlike design.
Lamb, Alastair, Source
Primary Description: 
Bead. Millefiori - cylindrical; with two types of eyes: foliated red, white, and blue; the other with composite center - four-pointed green center with white dots surrounded by subsidiary canes consisting of circular red, then circular white; next layer blue with four yellow stripes, then white outer coat; black core.
Corning Museum of Glass 2013-05-18 through 2014-01-05
For 30,000 years, mankind has crafted beads from natural materials. With the discovery of glassmaking in the second millennium B.C., glass began to be used for this same purpose. Glass beads are universal. They have been produced throughout the 35 centuries of glass manufacturing, and by nearly every culture in the world. The glass beads and beaded objects on view in this exhibition are arranged thematically, comparing the manner in which diverse cultures have utilized beads, frequently for the same purposes, but sometimes for unique reasons. These themes explore how glass beads adorn the body and our possessions; how they convey messages about power and wealth, and identify the stages of human life; how they serve ritual purposes, as well as decorate clothing and objects used in rituals; and how they have been employed across the centuries as a means of exchange, both commercial and cultural. Through the centuries, beads have been made using a variety of processes. Understanding how beads were made has allowed scholars to follow the transmission of beads and beadmaking techniques across the globe. Across time and around the world, glass beads have become a common element of mankind. Through their manufacture and function, they are one of the strings that bind humanity together. “Life on a String” celebrates this common bond while also revealing the distinctiveness of different societies through their use of glass beads to celebrate their unique cultural heritage.
Glass Beads: Selections from The Corning Museum of Glass (2013) illustrated, p. 34, no. 21; BIB# 134720
Beads: 3,500 Years of Glass Beads (2013) illustrated, p. 11 (fig 14, bottom right); BIB# AI93926
Life on a String: 35 Centuries of the Glass Bead (2013) illustrated, p. 7; BIB# AI94015