sabato, febbraio 24, 2018

Interessante intervista a Fiorenzo Toso

Da leggere qui.

Museo Archeologico di Napoli

Museo Archeologico di Napoli : vetri romani.

Flashback di storia del vetro

Bicchiere del IV sec.d. C., inciso con scene bacchiche.

Coppa romana con murrine,  prodotte col sistema, adottato in seguito dai vetrai di Murano, delle bacchette di vetro colorato, tagliate a rondelle.

Bicchieri con decoro a pastiglie, appartenenti ai primi secoli dell'Impero.
Il decoro, a pastiglie riportate,  ebbe una grande diffusione  a Nord delle Alpi, a partire dal secolo XV, fino al Rinascimento. Il centro archeologico di Strasburgo -Valle di Nassach - presenta questa tipologia di bicchiere a grosse gocce applicate sulle pareti. Gli esemplari più antichi furono scoperti nei  workshops di Corinto, datati XI-XII secolo.

Lavorazione della lastra per le finestre -  I secolo dopo Cristo. 
Il vetro veniva colato  su piastre di argilla di piccole dimensioni.

  • [ Le dimensioni erano molto ridotte, ma già orientative di un procedimento che avrebbe dovuto perfezionarsi nei secoli. Nell’area archeologica di Classe, presso Ravenna, venne rinvenuta una lastra di circa cmq (20 x 30), la quale presentava delle porosità, dalla parte, in cui era stata a contatto con lo stampo d’argilla, mentre dalla parte opposta mostrava i segni concentrici dovuti alla colata. Già durante l’Impero di Claudio, venivano portate a Cuma e a Napoli, lastre per finestre delle dimensioni di cm.30 X 40. Dopo l’Impero di Nerone, l’industria vetraria italiana si estese alla Gallia ;  a Treviri, durante la tetrarchia di Diocleziano. In Renania, la produzione della lastra  trovò un forte incremento col sistema a soffio , specialmente nel territorio di Colonia ].

domenica, febbraio 18, 2018



Excerpt from the book “Il museo dell’arte vetraria altarese” edited by Mariateresa Chirico, Albenga, 2009

By Anselmo Mallarini

According to a constant and well established oral tradition, the art of glass was introduced to Altare by a Benedictine community, established here around 1130 - which, having detected the suitable natural conditions, is said to have recalled from the north of France at that time (Normandy or Brittany) some expert craftsmen.
If, over the centuries, the production of Altare’s furnaces has proved to be characterised mainly by glassware for everyday use, the heritage of technical knowledge common to its craftsmen is not limited to such expressions.
Jacqueline Bellanger, one of the most influential French experts in the art of glassmaking in a recent publication[1] recognised that the role of the master glassmakers of Altare in the history of European glassware has for too long been overlooked, and she dedicated an entire chapter to “Les Altaristes”. In contrast, back in 1966 in Italy, Giovanni Mariacher spoke of Altare in one of his fundamental works on local arts and crafts, underlining its importance, but was evidently restricted to only a few words: “its activities”, he wrote, “are in a certain sense shrouded in mystery, because there are no known objects that can be attributed to it with certainty”. “Yet the historical information is precise”, continued the author, “Altare’s glassworkers were joined in a somewhat longstanding corporation, but one which had only been reorganised towards the end of the 15th century. They were recognized as noblemen, as were the Muranese, but unlike the latter, they were not forbidden from going abroad. Indeed, their fame, it can be said, is linked to this very prerogative; the little town enjoyed greater fame”, concluded Mariacher, “as it was a supplier of expertise and skill to the whole of Europe”[2]. It was indeed during the course of such migrations that the Altarese left their most significant traces of eclecticism. Let us, therefore, briefly outline the most significant moments of this journey.


During the 15th century, Provence was the preferred destination for the glassworkers of Altare in their migrations away from Liguria. A considerable role was played by the Ferro family, which until 19th century managed a large part of the glassworks established in that region.
Around 1445, Benedetto, the forefather of this branch, founded a factory in Goult (Vaucluse), meeting the favour of Renato d’Angiò[3], an enthusiastic patron of the art of glassmaking.  Next  toa conventional production, like that of wine bottles (“flacons à vin”), Ferro’s furnace did not neglect  fine objects featuring multicoloured enamelled decorations, perhaps inspired by Venetian fashions  and exemplified by a set of painted glassware  offered by Renato d’Angiò to his grandson Luigi XI[4]. According to the chronicles of the time, it was Renato I himself that formulated window designs that he then commissioned to Ferro for production and decoration, a process which he often loved to observe personally from a specially built room inside the factory. The premises still existed in 1790 under the name “Chambre du roi René”[5]. Probably as early as the 60s and 70s of that century, the travelling glassworkers of the time would lead members of the same family to Belgium, where it appears they were affiliated with the French “de Colnet” who, 1467, ran a glassworks in Leernes. “One would be perfectly reasonable in asking”, writes R. Chambon, “who the glassworkers were that brought the Venetian techniques here. Without providing absolute certainty, certain evidence allows one to establish that the de Ferry (Ferro) family performed a role of great importance in introducing these improvements to Belgium”[6]. H. Schuermans added that they “were undoubtedly called to our country to initiate their associates, the de Colnets, in the renowned Italian procedures of the 15th century, such as glass staining and glazing, already imported to Provence by another member of the Ferro family”[7]. Their longstanding establishment in Belgium is mentioned by Phillip II in a decree of April 1559, which recalled how the “de Ferry” family, with the “de Colnets”, hand long benefited from noble privileges in those regions[8].
In the 1400s, another family from Altare, Bormioli, was identified in France, more precisely in Provence (Avignone, Bras) and Linguadoca. Also here we can ascertain a migratory flow which, towards the end of the century, would bring a François de Bormiolles (Bormioli) to Flamets, in Normandy, where his furnace would be known as “Verrerie de la Grande Vallée”[9]. Even then, the extensive facility of movement and versatility were evident, qualities which would allow Altarese expertise to spread throughout Europe, bringing with it a style inspired by innovative Venetian working methods. Indeed it was with the so-called “façon de Venise” that western glassworking, reflecting the cultural trends of the time, abandoned its stricktly functional purpose to tend to plastic conceptions that privilege pure creation. Crucial in this regard was the invention (ca. 1455), attributed to Angelo Barovier from Murano, of “crystal” (or “cristalline”)[10]: a type of glass, comparable in purity and clarity to mineral crystal. The blend, endowed with extraordinary elasticity, enabled the creation of new shapes characterised by an extremely refined elegance typical of the renaissance period, and which will be the distinguishing feature for over two centuries in Europe.


As far as the Italian territory is concerned, this historical period documents settlements of altarese craftsmen in the main cities of the Padania Valley.
In 1439, Gino Beda was in Ferrara[11]  while in 1468 Antonio Dagna was in Pavia and two years later in Milan. In Piacenza, we find Benedetto Pisani (1476), while Pietro Montano and Pietro Basso worked as mere employees in Murano, in 1468 and 1470 respectively[12] .
It is thought that there was a more sporadic presence of altarese glassworkers in the Genoa area from the second half of the 13th century onwards[13] . Such a presence, however, is not documented until 1405 with a certain Luchino Massari who, in Masone, also manufactured sheet glass for the lights of the Port of Genoa; a type of production to which other altarese craftsmen in town would subsequently dedicate their efforts, including, from 1459, Raveta Pisani and Lanzarotto Beda. In 1441, the latter, “a most worthy caster”, wrote a commentator of the period, “and known for the coloured glass on view in the chapel of San Sebastiano, in the cathedral of San Lorenzo”[14], had obtained permission from the lordship to establish a furnace in Genoa, and four years later, special privileges for the practicing of his art. In 1464, he moved with his childrens to Caffa on the Black Sea, the most important Genoan colony in the east[15].  Nothing is known of his activity in the east: a perhaps unique case among the thousands of destinies of these craftsmen, which nevertheless validates the exceptional extension of their working relationships.



The expansion of altarese art was governed by an organisation stemming from precise statutory rules. The oldest attestation to the existence of a corporation (referred to as “Università dell’arte vitrea”) dates back to 1445[16]. It is indeed during this period, in which progressive productive growth and the first migrations away from the region of Liguria coincided, that organic written regulations became necessary to govern the relationships that were evolving both internally and to the market. The special regulations certainly reflected a habitual, standard practice established over time through simple conversations, traditionally observed by the glassworkers themselves.
The first edition dates February 15th 1495. The corporation was chaired by six consuls elected every year on Christmas day, and which was granted full power to organise glassworking activities and to establish working times. These tasks also included the regulation of temporary migrations which took place upon the payment of certain contributions on the part of the employer and the hired craftsmen. The Consulate of Art was also in charge of training the craftsmen to be sent to certain pre-selected places, giving rise to solemn ceremonies where teams of designated craftsmen vowed to return to their homes before the feast of St John the Baptist. Vittorio Brondi makes mention of it, perhaps in memory of the historical altarese glassworking families: “the white flag of the glasswork University appeared in all its artistic solemnity, whether during the feast of the patron Saint when it accompanied the Captain and his good lady, or whether the Consuls used it to salute the loyal crafstmen upon their departure from their native home, or upon their return [...]”[17]
The registers of the University noted the authorisations granted to the workers who were about to set off on their journeys, as well as their composition and in which place they had been requested. It was a procedure of protection and control which H. Schuermans supposes was also carried out through the sending of emissaries to the manufacturing centres. Here the teams of altarese craftsmen, forming closed communities, kept links with their homeland alive through the observance and practicing of their traditions and lifestyles. Compliance with the statutory provisions from the glassmakers was in fact also guaranteed by the strong bonds of mutual solidarity strengthened by common customs perpetuated over the centuries. The worker who had been delegated to represent the corporation could expect payment of the taxes owed by entrepreneurs in order to obtain the services of a group of craftsmen, and any breaches of contract occurring between workers and employers were regulated exclusively by the chapters of the Art.


In the course of the 16th century, excellent prospects for good payment offered by countries in expansion caused migratory flows to intensify and new industrial initiatives were undertaken in France by the altarese craftsmen.
In 1536, Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantova, following his marriage to Margherita Paleologo, became Marquis of Monferrato, to which Altare belonged. In 1565, his son Luigi in turn acquired the title of Duke of Nevers, bestowed on him by his wife Henriette de Clèves. The patronage of the Gonzaga recalled numerous altarese people to Nevers which, with Orléans, would become the most prestigious glassware centre created by them in France. Around 1583, Giacomo Saroldi, Giovanni Ferro, Vincenzo Ponta and Sebastiano Bertoluzzi moved there from Lyon, obtaining a monopoly for a radius of 20 leagues from the town[18]. In 1585, Agostino Conrado of Albisola and  Pietro Pertino of Albisola become their associates, both of them potters, as a number of altarese craftsmen appear to have been, as the two arts had the application of a number of raw materials in common. The company broke up two years later and ceramic production would continue to be managed by Conrado, while the Altarese group, led by Giacomo Saroldi, brother Vincenzo and nephew Orazio Ponta, maintained the glassworks together with that of Lyon, which, nevertheless, from 1590 onwards, seems to have been managed solely by Sebastiano Bertoluzzi.
Alongide the arts of glassworking and ceramics, that of enamelling played a no less significant role in Nevers. Indeed, it should be remembered that between 1565 and 1577, skilled Italian craftsmen[19] (soon to be accompanied by their French counterparts) had introduced a typical production of small figures in enamel, subsequently known internationally as “verre filé de Nevers”. It appears that the glassworks, as well as providing raw materials to the town’s “émailleurs”, also managed its own manufacturing activity. It is significant that, in this regard, Vincenzo Saroldi, in May of 1600, was authorised to settle in any one of the principle French towns “to produce all sorts of glassware [...] without burning wood or coal”. The clause relating to the use of fuel leads one to deduce that glassworkers were only allowed to work with a glass paste moulded “by Lucerne flame” (or “à la lampe”). It was a type of production that was mentioned in 1605 in the “Journal d’ Heroard”, specifically discussing the “little glass dogs and other animals made in Nevers” which delighted Luigi XIII in his childhood[20]. The furnace’s delivery registers note among his “verres filés”: false jewels, broaches, figurines and religious objects, playthings and little caskets. A multitude of curious articles, and a comprehensive list would be impossible here, were supplied to glass and jewellery merchants throughout France. A commentator of that period made an observation in such a regard: “Nevers can be considered another Murano. If you ask them to show you their most curious work, you will admire them as you would many other artistic masterpieces, which in no way belittle this industry in the creation of rings, earrings and other jewels that are presented to you on arrival and which you cannot help but purchase"[21].
Various craft backgrounds came together therefore in the technical and stylistic patrimony of these workers from Altare, translating into stimulating and influential contributions for flexible solutions of considerable originality. Such innovative commitment enhanced the activity of the Nevers furnace, which towards the end of the 16th century distinguished itself for its prestigious glassware often chosen by the local municipality for diplomatic gifts.
In 1599, a payment was made in favor of Vincenzo Saroldi for “33 dozen pieces of refined glass crystal, sent as a gift to the city of Paris to a number of eminent people”.
An author of the time also recalled a certain coloured-glass item made by the factory: “Duke Luigi Gonzaga must take the credit in Nevers for such an art, and for a production not only in crystal glass, but also in other colours such as topaz, emerald, hyacinth blue and acquamarine, and gallantries similar to oriental pieces”[22].
In 1597, it was Henry IV himself who, authorising Giacomo, Vincenzo Saroldi and Orazio Ponta to establish a furnace in Melun, near Paris, recognized the importance of those they had managed in Lyon and Nevers. “Our dear and well-loved Giacomo and Vincenzo Saroldi, brothers, and Orazio Ponta, their nephew”, it reads in the document, “gentlemen of the art and science of glassworking, having previously and for a long time managed the crystal glass furnaces in our cities of Lyon and Nevers, have acquired such a reputation for perfection in their work that the majority of the glassware and crystal used by our court, in the vicinity and throughout our kingdom, originates from the aforementioned cities of Lyon and Nevers [...]”[23].
The results achieved by the Altarese in the production of “crystal” seem to have been particularly successful if in Modena in 1598, brothers Giovanni and Cesare Bertoluzzi obtained a monopoly for a ten year production which foresaw “as well as common glassware of all kinds, [...] crystal Murano style glassware, gilded German style glasses, with barrel, ducal goblets with and without lids [...]”[24]. It was significant, with regard to the level of quality offered by the two craftsment that the provision did not include a “with the exception of”, as was usually added in such cases, “the importation of Venetian glass”.
In that period, we can also find Altarese craftsmen in Belgium (Liege, Antwerp, Chimay, Mons), Spain[25] and in England, where as early as 1504, a certain Nicola Grenni participated in the manufacture of windows for Norwich Cathedral[26]. Such an expansion of working relationships with its multitude of human experiences could only bring to the Liguria community an extraordinary enhancement of its cultural and technological expertise.


The migratory phenomenon intensified towards the end of the 16th century and coincided with a phase of serious recession for the Altarese market, a recession which was determined by factors intrinsic to the trade and, more generally, by the gradual deterioration of the Italian economic climate.
The decline of the local glassware industry, which despite undergoing alternating cycles would continue until the middle of the 19th century, increased the exodus of workers above all to those countries which were in a more intense phase of development.
France continued to constitute the preferred destination for those migrating across the Alps. Until then, the Altarese craftsmen, bound by the strict orders of their corporation, had always refused to train local apprentices. However, a government project aimed at the creation and consolidation of a national industry would be achievable through granting citizenship to many families of craftsmen who had emigrated to France and who, having settled there, eventually spread their own technical knowledge to others in their area.
Nevers meanwhile became the most famous glassware centre in France. Here, and subsequently in Orléans, mere imitations of the “façon de Venise” were no longer proposed (like in most other places by then). New ways to produce glassware with original stylistic features were explored, and also achieved by successful expressive synthesis from motifs borrowed from the art of ceramics and enamels.
The specialities of the Nevers furnaces included a glass piece which imitated in colour and in vein stones such as jasper, agate and chalcedony.
“The Italians of Altare who settled in the Nevers area from the 16th century onwards”, observed J. Bellanger in this regard, “became [in France], the most important producers of jasper glass. Practically all of the French jasper pieces from this period were made in Nevers”[27].
In 1647, Giovanni Castellano took over the management of the glassworks; later, during the course of the 1700s up until the eve of the French Revolution, it was run by the Bormioli family.
About Orléans, from 1668 Bernardo Perotto, the most famous altarese glassmaker, worked there[28]. Perrotto soon distinguished himself as a genial creator of new glass pastes, and he was known for an original decorative application of enamels on copper and other materials.
Claiming to have acquired the means to recompose recipes that had been lost for centuries, in December 1668 Louis XIV granted him a special privilege which allowed him exclusive access to some of his inventions, including a new type of red glass based on gold and arsenic. In those years, the success allowed to him open a shop on the “Quai de l’Horloge” in Paris and in  that period (around 1672) he came up with his most important invention: the so-called “pouring” technique. The mass of molten glass, allowed to “pour” onto a surface of refractory earth, was uniformly flattened by a copper roller, obtaining sheet glass of superior dimensions with respect to those which had been possible up to then by means of the traditional “blowing” procedure.
The method was soon adopted universally and it remained in use, without substantial modifications, up until the beginning of the 20th century. Therefore, Altare made a fundamental contribution to the evolution of glass processing technology, in virtue of which the objective pursued by the King of emancipating the French market from imports of Venetian mirrors and sheet glass was finally achieved.
At that time, it was the Nevers-Orléans monopoly that exerted the action of greatest scope among the various French centres of glassware production. Perrotto, like his compatriots in Nevers, devoted his energies to a “façon de Venise”, including regular and more upmarket varieties, but it should nevertheless be underlined how the importance of the furnaces of the so-called “Loire Monopoly” (i.e. Nevers and Orléans) was founded on a commitment to innovation which shunned slavish imitations of Venetian forms and motifs. Such a need found in Bernardo Perrotto its finest exponent.
The influential James Barralet wrote about him: "Perotto was above all a researcher, a scientist, even before an artist. Throughout his life he devoted himself entirely to the design of new types of glass and new processing technologies […]. [The Altarese] therefore contributed, more than any other, to create an original glassmaking, a French glassmaking that was alien to the age-old monotony of shapes and colors typical of the “Façon de Venise […]. A brilliant craftsman from Italy, he aroused research in an environment that did not have the spirit, […] faisant feu de toutes parts pour ouvrir de nouveaux horizons à l’art du verre[29]
Further testimony of the eclecticism of the altarese working in France can be found in Brittany and Poitou, and an interesting production of “glass porcelain”[30], (XVII – XVII centuries) a speciality which spread towards other regions of the Loire. Again in Brittany, there was a considerable level of ceramics production (end of XVI – XVII centuries), a chapter of altarese art still to be fully explored. It is known, however, that circular and oval plates, bottles, flasks, vases, candlesticks and stoups were all produced in great quantities[31].
A repertoire modified by glassware models that, through certain expressive solutions, even here would in turn be able to influence altarese glassware in a kind of stylistic interaction.


In France, little glassware has remained that can be attributed with certainty to the artists from Altare. The inventories normally testify, as their speciality, fine glassware inspired by the Venetian school, often reinterpreted through morphological variations owed to the personal creativity of the individual craftsmen.
With respect to the expressive techniques of a typically Baroque nature, it can be held that the altarese influence was not extraneous to its establishment in France, in a style which was clearly orientated towards more sober and essential forms.
In any case, a specific Altarese “way” must have existed if in the course of the 17th century a “façon d’Altare” seems to have established itself in Liege, which met with the agreement of local tastes to such an extent that it was expressly imposed on the Muranese glassworkers’ employment contracts.
The products which were commonly asked of the Ligurian craftsmen consisted of a well-defined repertoire of wine and beer glasses (today of uncertain morphological identity) in the context of which the Altarese “façon” had acquired a precise stylistic identity. Indicative of this is a contract stipulated in 1655 between entrepreneurs from Liege by the name of Bonhomme and Giovanni Ongaro from Murano, who committed himself to the exclusive production of glassware “à la façon des Srs Altarites [...] comme verres à buch, à chainettes, à demi-côte et avec des branches, verres à la biére à ondes, à escarbotte, glacés et moulés, coupés à ondes”. It would appear that the contract had identified a more upmarket type of everyday glassware, “distinguished”, observed Hélène Van Heule, “both by a luxury Venetian style and by that of a more ordinary nature”[32].
Even in Liege, however, the Altarese did not limit themselves to such typologies and, as underlined by R. Chambon, “[...] from the end of the second third of the 17th century, [they] were considered to be on the same level as those from Murano and were paid the same rate (either fixed or “per piece”), given that they were then able to produce glassware of the highest quality, at the same level as the finest work from Murano”[33].
The “Venetian style” glassware (also known as “verres extraordinaires") was above all exemplified in Liege by the famous “snake-bodied” and “flower” chalices, expressions relating to the specific ornamental motifs of complex execution which characterised the stem. A productive typology to which, in the Principality, Marco and Eugenio Saroldi, Ottavio Massari and Corrado Mirenghi were all committed over the 60s and 70s of that century.
In that period, meanwhile, another craftsman from Altare, Giovanni Battista Da Costa, who had operated since 1673 in Savoy, near London, would seem to have played a decisive role in the invention of a new lead crystal (known as “flint-glass”)[34], whose paternity until now has generally been attributed to the director of the glassworks, George Ravenscroft. The addition of lead oxide to the vitrifiable mixture in higher proportions with respect to those used in the past enabled the production of an extremely pure crystal and a consistency which would adapt well to new decorative techniques, including deep wheel engraving. This extraordinarily bright glass which, through new and stylised creations, was prevalent in a large part of 17th century tastes - with Bohemian potash crystal -, marking the European decline of that extremely vast artistic and expressive phenomenon known internationally as “façon de Venise”.


In Altare, like in Murano, the irreversible process of decline in the glassware industry would intensify further with the general abolition of the trade corporations (which occurred in Europe between the end of the 17th century and the first half of the 19th century), following the advent of the industrial revolution which, with its increased production volumes and the expansions of markets, required that the ancient economic structures expressed by the corporative system were overcome. In this context, the “Università dell’Arte Vitrea” was also abolished in June 1823 by Carlo Felice.
Heavy repercussions were felt regarding conditions for the workers, whose relations with the furnace owners up until then had been mediated by the Consolato dell’Arte. Remuneration, given the surplus of manpower, was significantly reduced, when it was not directly given in foodstuffs.
Just as serious were the effects of the tough competition which had been created among the owners of the glassworks who, in carrying out of their activities, found themselves liberated from their ancient corporative restrictions.
“Everyone tried to prolong production”, G. Buzzone wrote in this regard, “so that more goods were manufactured than were generally required, and our manufacturers always had a miserly capital, which meant that they could not sustain processing without continuous sales, therefore when one was not favoured by a concourse of the buyers, one attempted to acquire such favour with a reduction in price [...]”[35]. All this, revealed Buzzone, could only reflect negatively in profit margins and the quality standards of the products themselves.
Worsening the already precarious conditions of the Altarese industry, the “Fabbrica Regia Avena” opened in Chiusa Pesio, with the exclusive privilege of the entire state for the production of crystal. Furthermore, between 1836 and 1838, the traditional glass sheets “alla veneziana”, which up until then had been produced in Altare, were commercially ousted by those of the German school, qualitatively superior and considerably less expensive.
In this period, there was a mass exodus of Altarese glassworkers, some of whom returned to Italy, while others left for Latin America, to found new factories[36].
A. Marianelli underlines the relevance of the effects of this new diaspora, which with its manufacturing districts, constituted the primitive framework of Italy’s national glassware industry[37].
There was also an increasing number of workers who, every autumn, would move to the various glassworks throughout the Peninsular for a period of between 6 and 10 months.
It was then that the craftsmen began to express the will to forge an associative pact aimed at ensuring the best possible working conditions and reviving the fortunes of an industry upon which the local economy had always been founded. “The feeling of solidarity among the Altarese glassworkers was not lacking”, wrote Emilio Papa, “and as they had done in the distant past in their settlement in their little village, when they created their tiny “Universitates”, in the 19th century they initially turned towards social security, associationism and mutual aid, before pursuing with greater success the goal of cooperativism. [...] And the company that was born in Altare in the 19th century and that embodied the finest of Altare’s traditions in the construction of a large factory and an admirable manufacturing effort, had to obtain significant acknowledgement in the market place and the expositions, earning among other things the praise of an economist and member of parliament by the name of Luigi Luzzatti”[38].
The association that E. Papa was referring to, the first cooperative of industrial production in Italy, was founded in Altare on December 24th 1856. The association, although undergoing great difficulties, was able to maintain an important position among the national industries of the sector for a long time, equipping itself with advanced technologies and adjusting its production to meet the needs of the market. In 1911, the qualitative progress made by the “Società Artistico-Vetraria” earned it the “Grand Prix” at the “International Exposition of Industry and Labour”, held in Turin. It was in the two decades between 1910 and 1930 that the Cooperative’s most significant phase of expansion took place, when the number of people employed reached 700 and the factory covered a surface area of 35,000 m2. Production consisted almost exclusively of everyday objects and items for chemistry and pharmaceutical laboratories. However, items of greater prestige were not neglected and allowed generations of highly skilful craftsmen to excel. It is worth highlighting Oreste Saroldi, the Cimbro brothers and Costantino Bormioli, whose school was attended by Isidoro Bormioli, another master craftsman who recently passed away. The arts of engraving and whetting were also cultivated, the latter finding exponents of the calibre of Attilio Saroldi, Pietro Moraglio and Giuseppe Bertoluzzi.


The alternating fortunes of S.A.V. from the 1930s onwards determined new migratory flows beyond national borders. Significant industrial results were achieved by Diego Mirenghi who, in 1937, arrived in Eritrea, and in 1942, after overcoming a multitude of difficulties, was able to establish the first glassworks ever built in Eastern Africa: the “Sava Mirenghi”. In 1950, after having initiated a flourishing industry, he moved to Kenya (then a British Protectorate), where he founded the “Pitt-Moore/Mirenghi”. In the 1960s and 70s, he founded glassworks in Kampala (Uganda) and in Dar-es-Salaam(Tanzania), while in the last years of his life he dedicated most of his time to “Maliban Glass” in Chtaura, in the Lebanon.
Altare’s entrepreneurial dynamism was expressed through other important initiatives activated by a group of 14 glassworkers who had emigrated to Argentina in 1947: Masters Isidoro and Gerardo Bormioli and Aldo Buzzone; glassblowers Pietro Gaggino, Carlo Garabello and Edoardo Pioppo; engraver Francesco Rottazzo and technicians Virginio Bazzano, Adarco De Biasi, Anselmo Gaminara, Carlo Rabellino, Vinicio Saroldi, Rinaldo Scarrone and Luigi Visani.
They founded a glassworks in San Jorge and subsequently another two in San Carlos (near Santa Fé) which are still operative today: the “San Carlos” and “La Liguria”.

This text is drawn from an article that appeared in "Il museo dell'arte vetraria altarese" Bacchetta Editore, Albenga 2009, traslated by Handrew Penington.

[1] Histoire du verre, Paris 2006.
[2] L’arte del vetro, Milano 1966, p. 137.
[3] Renato I (1409-1480) was King of Naples and Sicily, Duke of Angiò, Bar and Lorena and Count of Provence. He retreated to the latter in 1442 following the occupation of his property on the part of Alfonso V d’Aragona.
[4] This glassware sent to Paris was recorded in the expeneses of Renato I (deposited at the Chamber of Accounts in Aix) as paid “ à ceux de Goult” for 100 guilders. See R. Reboul, Notes historiques-génèalogiques sur les Des Ferry et les D’Escrivan, in “Giornale Araldico”, Pisa 1876, p. 311.
[5] Ivi, p. 310.
[6] Histoire de la verrerie en Belgique, Bruxelles 1955, p. 81.
[7]/ 8Verres façon de Venise ou d’Altare fabriqués aux Pays-Bas, Bruxelles 1883-1893, septième lettre, pp. 317 e 316.
[9] O. Le Vaillant de la Fieffe, Les verreries de la Normandie, Rouen 1873, p. 194.
[10] A glass of sodic composition bleached with manganese dioxide.
[11] M. Badano Brondi, Storia e tecniche del vetro preindustriale, Genova 1999, p. 52.
[12] G. Malandra, I vetrai di Altare, Savona 1983, pp. 64 e 148.
[13] In which case it could refer to production limited to the summer months, when, according to an ancient tradition recorded in the company articles of 1495, activity was suspended in Altare.
[14] / 15 F. Podestà, Il porto di Genova, Genova 1913, pp. 326-329.
[16] In that year Giovanni Massari was the consul (Arch. Fam. De Massary, Paris).
[17]Discorso per la celebrazione del 75° della S.A.V., Savona 1931.
[18] With regard to the activities of the Altarese craftsmen in Nevers, we referred mainly to the work of F. Boutillier, La verrerie et les gentilshommes verriers de Nevers, Nevers 1885.
[19] It seems they were Tuscan artists, previously active in Lyon together with Altareses and ceramists from Albisola, who had come to France following Girolamo della Robbia,
[20] J. Barrelet, La verrerie en France, Paris 1953, p. 93.
[21] Journal d’un voyage de France et d’Italie (1661), quoted in Boutillier, pp. 99-100.
[22] P.V. Palma Caiet, Histoire de la paix sous le règne du très-chrestien roy de France et de Navarre, Libro V°, p. 371.
[23] Boutillier, La verrerie et les gentilshommes verriers de Nevers, pp. 17-19.
[24] E. Ferrari-G. Polacci, Arte estense del vetro e del cristallo, Modena 1988, p. 35.
[25] J. Ainaud De Lasarte, Ceramica y Vidrio, Madrid 1952, p. 348.
[26] A. Engle, The Glassmakers of Altare, Jerusalem 1981, p. 55.
[27] J. Bellanger, Verre d’usage et de prestige, France 1500-1800, Paris 1988, p. 35.
[28] With regard to Bernardo Perrotto, we mainly referred to the works of P. Bondois, La verrierie nivernaise et orléanaise au XVIIe siécle, Paris 1932; and J. Bérnard and B. Dragesco, Bernard Perrot et les verrieries royales du Duché d’Orléans, Orléans 1989.
[29] Un virtuose de la verrerie au temps de Louis XIV: Bernard Perrot; in “Connaissance des arts”; n. 78, Aug. 1958
[30] J. Bellanger, Verre d’usage et de prestige, p. 105.
[31] J. Vince, Faïences et poteries, Nantes 1982, p. 22.
[32] Les maîtres verriers italiens aux fours Bonhomme à Liège de 1638 à 1687, Liège 1960, p. 140. Also in Kiel, in 1655, an “Altarese style” production is mentioned (“risselsche nach art der Altaristen”). Cfr. W.A. Thorpe, English Glass, London 1961.
[33]Le verre. Art – Histoire – Techniques, p. 27.
[34] His patent is dated 1674. Previously Da Costa, in partnership with a certain Jean Guillaume Reinier and another craftsman from Altare, Giovanni Odasso Formica, had worked in Nimega, devoting his energies to the production of false glass gems. It is thought that such glass must have contained lead oxides and that its recipe provided the basis for “flint-glass”. “This new glass”, observed C. Moretti, “[...] was a type of glass that Da Costa must have already tested in Nijmegen. In effect, his partner Reinier would produce, in 1675, the same glass in Sweden, while in Ireland, the other partner Formica would obtain a patent for the production of a similar glass”. (George Ravenscroft, Considerazioni e aspetti ancora oscuri nel processo di realizzazione del vetro “flint”, in Altare: la cultura del vetro, Seminar proceedings, Oct. 2003, Savigliano 2003). With regard to Da Costa, see also A. Engle, The Glassmakers of Altare, p. 58. The same author states that the members of the Altarese Dagna family, from 1684 onwards, “gave rise to an important dynasty of crafstmen in Newcastle, and they are credited with some of the finest English lead crystal of the period”.
[35] From a manuscript by the glassworker Giuseppe Buzzone (Altare, 1860).
[36] During 19th century, glassworks were managed by Altarese directors in Turin (Racchetti), Milan (Bordoni), Sesto Calende (Bordoni and Bertoluzzi), Casalmaggiore (Brondi, Bormioli and Bordoni), Piacenza (Saroldi), Borgo San Donnino and Parma (Bormioli), Brescello (Bordoni), Ferrara (Brondi), Rimini (Brondi and Marini), Florence (Bormioli), Terni and San severino Marche (Mirenghi), Pesaro (Buzzone), Vestone and Sacrofano (Bormioli), Roma (Brondi), Salerno and Vietri (Racchetti). With regard to the 19th century settlements of Altarese glassworks in Latin America, we can cite, from the end of the 1930s onwards, those in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro and Lima.
[37] Proletariato di fabbrica e organizzazione sindacale in Italia: il caso dei lavoratori del vetro, Milano 1983, p. 66. Around 1880, more than half of Italian white glass factories were still managed by altarese directors.
[38] E. Papa, pref. A. Mallarini, L’arte vetraria altarese, Albenga 1995.