Welcome to the Murano Zoo
Click on images for a closer look
Venetian glass animals are among the world's most delightful accessories for the home. People who buy them are often perplexed when they try to figure out who made them. It is understandable. Most people remove labels from the animals because they think they're unattractive. After the labels are removed, it can be almost impossible to track the maker of some animals down. It can even be difficult to say for sure that they are Murano. Glass that looks like Murano is made in many countries.
Animals were often used to decorate Venetian glass vessels in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Most people are familiar with the fish, swans, dragons, hippogryphs, sea horses, and snakes. Making stand-alone figurines of animals didn't start in earnest in Murano until the late 1920s. Early animals made during the Great Depression years are the most valued among collectors. The designs of these animals were often casual, but the techniques were very interesting. Pasta glass animals, such as those designs by Ercole Barovier and Napoleone Martinuzzi, were very popular. Pulegoso and sfumato (frequently combined), such as designs by Martinuzzi and Barbini, were frequently seen. Comic designs by Ercole Barovier were popular, no matter the technique. These pre-WWII animals are sought after now and often cost several thousand dollars.
Production on Murano was interrupted by WWII. After the war, influence of maestros Martinuzzi, Barbini, Flavio Poli, and Archimede Seguso changed the form of animals. Sommerso, bullicante, and massello techniques became important. More attention was paid to the form of many of the animals, though Murano glassmakers still take much artistic license with the anatomy of the animals. Two people have been particularly important in promoting modern animals to a higher level in the world of glass art -- Ermanno Nason and Pino Signoretto. Their work is sought after and highly prized.
Most of the animals that are in the zoo were made from 1950 into the 1980s. A few are more recent. We have the honor of having some of the older citizens in the zoo. These older animals can be difficult to attribute with any certainty because they are not documented in any sources I have been able to find. This is actually true for animals made during any decade. After they lose their labels, they can be difficult or impossible to identify.
This site is for people looking to identify animals in their collection. It includes animals that are often seen on eBay or in online stores. It is far from complete, but I hope it will be useful. I am Anita Caudle, the owner of San Marcos Art Glass. I have a particular love for well-made Murano animals. Much of my time is spent looking at glass animals, taking their pictures, and trying to figure out who made them. The designs I am including here are ones that either have labels, or are designs I've been able to find labeled specimens or expert documentation. The site will be growing as more animals join the zoo, so check back whenever you have the time.