The Venetian crystal workers' gild in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries
Romano, Dennis (b. 1951)
Lear, Floyd S.
Master of Arts
The Venetian crystal workers' gild produced various objects in rock crystal ranging from reliquary crosses to eyeglasses and false gems. Although a highly regarded trade, the crystal workers' gild was politically and economically subordinate to Venice's patrician government. The gild was required to register its capitularies or official statutes with the Old Justices. These capitularies, dated 1284 and 1319, which were edited and published by Giovanni Mbnticolo for the Fonti per la Storia d'Italia, form the basis for this social history of the gild in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Recognizing the limitations of official statutes as sources, this study examines the gild against the larger background of gild history in Venice and medieval Europe. The organization of the gild is viewed as appropriate to the industrial needs of the craft, including the contention that the suprastantes or officers of the gild provided collective leadership. In addition, there is a detailed analysis of the gild's attempts to limit competition among gildsmen by limiting entrance, to the gild and by regulating the distribution of raw materials. Using the twelfth-century treatise De Diversis Artibus, the techniques of production are analysed. This evidence and the written evidence from the capitularies are compared with rock crystal objects found in European churches and museums. Special attention is devoted to the conflict which developed between the crystal workers and the glassmakers of Venice over the production of objects in rock crystal and glass. The crystal workers at first met innovations in glassmaking with hostility, but they eventually accepted glass as a suitable material for certain objects. This study concludes that the Venetian crystal workers' gild was in many ways a typical medieval gild. The crystal workers pursued a policy designed to limits internal competition and designed to limit encroachment from outside the gild. A translation of the capitularies is included as an appendix.