Few things are as timeless as Venetian mirrors, which must be why they are a perennial favorite of designers. With so many different style choices you can work one into nearly any space, creating a look that’s both eclectic and glamorous at once. We decided it was time that we highlight the Venetian mirror in all its glory!
One thing you realize when you start looking at Venetian mirrors is just how many options you have. Stylistically, they come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, etc. Maybe a simple rectangular or oval piece with minimal etching will work. You can find many mirrors with clean lines and smooth edges that lend a more modern feel, no additional adornment and no color, just allowing the mirror to tie into the space.
Or perhaps you are looking for something that stands out from its surroundings. There are mirrors with more elaborate silhouettes, like shield shapes or scalloped edges, intricate pediments, or raised profiles mounted on more decorated surfaces.
Some mirrors come with additional blown glass ornamentation in the form of flowers, leaves or lattice.
Many of us think of traditional silvered glass for mirrors, but Venetian mirrors are available with diverse color choices. Sleek black for a more modern sophistication, or pops of red, blue and beyond to liven things up. There are also many of the old style gilt frames, some with hand painted details.
Sizes can range from sweet, diminutive pieces to immense room makers. The more you look, the more you realize that you can really change a room’s attitude with something that may have been considered an afterthought.
Another point to consider is the clarity of the mirror, both with its etchings and condition of silvering. Venetian mirrors are famous for their fantastic etched images. Sometimes just the trim may have delicate floral etching or foliate swags, sometimes there may be more complex adornment like still lifes or intricate outdoor scenes. Occasionally, you come across a purely decorative mirror where the main glass has a nearly full-sized etching.
The condition of the mirror’s silvering is something else that you can use to affect the overall tone of a room. When purchasing a brand new mirror you can expect that the silvering will be perfectly intact, which contributes to a fresher, more modern look. Conversely, there are many levels of silvering condition that you can find on the market. If your mirror has minor to moderate disruption on the backing it can impart a warm, vintage vibe and air of subtle relaxation. You may also go all out with a heavily aged antique mirror that has a lot of silvering loss. This can imbue your space with a sense of decadence, Venice at its Baroque height.
Classic Venetian glass is associated with Murano, where glass artisans settled in the year 1255. The reasoning behind this move is twofold, the first being that high-quality mirrored glass was extremely difficult to make and very valuable. By locating their workshops further out the artisans were safeguarding their prized technique. Second, making the mirrors is hot and sometimes dangerous work. Taking the possibly hazardous factories away from the heart of the city was something that everyone could agree on. For centuries, Murano glass was known to be the best quality in Europe, both highly reflective and with unblemished surfaces. In the 17th century, a French official managed to bribe three Murano masters into coming to France and sharing their techniques. French artisans learned quickly and expanded on these techniques. Since then, the “Venetian” style glass isn’t strictly limited to Italy. The term "Venetian" is used interchangeably for French and Italian glass.
One last consideration is that Venetian glass is used for a variety of items. We often think of beautiful wall hanging mirrors, but it’s also a popular decoration on many furniture items, including tables and chests. The mirrored surface instantly brightens and lightens a piece, bringing an air of delicacy. A mirrored nightstand can carry wafts of Hollywood Regency, or perhaps a mirrored vanity can usher in some old-world opulence. The possibilities are plentiful, so get out there and have a look around! You may find the perfect piece to pull your space together.