The Art of Imitation – European Glassmaking 1450 to 1700

European Glassmaking 1450 to 1700

In the forward to his book L’Arte Vetraria, first published in 1612, the Florentine priest and alchemist Antonio Neri discusses the nature of glass. Whilst accepting that it is akin to naturally formed rocks and minerals, he concludes that it is “a compound, and made of art”. In the ensuing Chapters of the book, he describes in extraordinary detail recipes and techniques for making glass of different colours and types. The beauty of such glasses, he describes “it will be seen as if nature herself could not arrive to the like perfection, nor art imitate it”.

Neri himself worked as a glassmaker in Florence under the patronage of Don Antonio de Medici, to whom the book is dedicated. He is also known to have worked in Pisa and in Antwerp. Far from being academic, therefore, the descriptions he gives are of a very clear and practical nature. He often invites his reader that if he follows his recipes precisely, then an immediately perfect result will be achieved.


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