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By the 1450s, Venice was the world’s leading producer of luxury glass. Its Murano-based furnaces produced milky-white opaque glass in imitation of Chinese porcelain, marbled ‘chalcedony’ and coloured glass (often embellished with enamelled decorations and gilding) as well as clear, almost colourless soda-glass known as cristallo because of its resemblance to rock crystal. 

During the sixteenth century, the art of blowing and manipulating cristallo into imaginatively-shaped vessels reached unbelievable heights of virtuosity. Its lightness and clarity made it an ideal alternative to silver for luxurious drinking vessels. As seen in Paolo Veronese’s Marriage of Cana (1562–3), wealthy Venetians drank red wine from glasses with a tall stem and wide shallow bowl, now called tazze, which they held precariously by the foot or stem. This tazza has an undulating bowl with a wavy rim, and must have been difficult to drink from without spillage. Little wonder that tazze were also used to serve sweetmeats, such as sugared and spiced fruits and confectionary, during the final ‘sweet’ course of banquets.