Large Italian Painting of a Merchant Ship “The Venetian Workers’ Society Offers”
A unique work of art, this charming painting was made in Venice, Italy, in the mid-19th century.
Created to promote The Venetian Workers’ Society, this large hand-painted oil painting was painted on a wood board, then covered in tiny Venetian glass beads (see images) which add a unique visual element. The glass beads were likely made in Murano, famous for its Murano glass*
The Venetian Worker’s Society was one of the “friendly societies”** of northern Italian workers in the middle of the 19th century.
The image shows a sailing ship that also employed the new steam technology.
The ship is at anchor in the Port of Venice.
A gondola sweeps by in the foreground, and we see just a corner of St. Marks Square on the far left of the image (see image #4).
In the middle at the bottom of the frame is written La Societa Operaia Veneziana Offre (The Venetian Workers’ Society Offers) over the Lion of St. Mark, the Venetian Lion.
The inner part of the frame has parcel-gilt, and the outer frame is maple.
The frame measures 33″ wide x 27″ height x 1” depth.
**During the second half of the 19th century, “friendly societies” flourished in Italy (especially in Central and Northern Italy). These were workers’ societies and provided support to their members in the form of education, mutual aid, and cultural events. In addition, many societies operated cooperatives, which allowed workers to pool their resources and collectively own and operate businesses such as bakeries and factories.
They predated trade unionism and were an essential element of Italian social life.
*Venetian glass (vetro veneziano) is glassware made in Venice, typically on the island of Murano near the city. Production has been concentrated on the Venetian island of Murano since the 13th century. Today Murano is known for its art glass, but it has a long history of innovations in glassmaking in addition to its artistic fame—and was Europe’s major center for luxury glass from the High Middle Ages to the Italian Renaissance. During the 15th century, Murano glassmakers created cristallo—which was almost transparent and considered the finest glass in the world.