One of the most spectacular and best-kept secrets of Venice is hidden in a small street in the Fondamenta di Cannaregio. Here, since 1888 the Angelo Orsoni furnace, the oldest in the world specialized in the production of the precious glass mosaic with gold leaf and enamels, has supplied its mosaics for the most spectacular monuments and princely residences in the world. From Westminster in London to the Golden Buddhas of Bangkok, from the palaces of the Kings of Saudi Arabia to the Teatro de l’Opéra in Paris, to the Basilica of San Marco, just to name a few.
The history of the Fornace begins with Angelo Orsoni‘s passion for this ancient art. Born in the nineteenth century to a Murano family, he was introduced to the secrets of mosaic by the famous craftsman-artist Giandomenico Facchina who, when he decided to move to France, gave him his workshop: it was 1888. The following year Angelo decided to go to the International Exhibition in Paris (the one for which the Eiffel Tower was built) and, to show his art, he brought with him a multicolored panel, a sample of enamels and mosaic golds, made up of over 3,000 pieces of mosaic. Today still conserved in the Fornace showroom, the panel was so successful that struck Antoni Gaudì‘s imagination to the point that he decided to use exclusively Orsoni products for the construction of the Sagrada Famiglia in Spain.
These are the years of Art Noveau and the mosaic, normally used for sacred art, started to become fashionable and used for new purposes, allowing the Fornace a constant growth until the 1960s. In 2003 Orsoni joined the TREND Group founded by Pino Bisazza and in 2004 Domus Orsoni was also born; a hotel with five rooms furnished with mosaic works by various Italian artists.
Inside the furnace, today you can still witness the spectacle of the transformation, at over 1300 degrees, of sand, soda, opacifiers, and metal oxides into a colored glass paste which is subjected to the action of a roller to obtain the glass blocks which are then cooled and finally cut; all strictly by hand.
A kaleidoscope of colors that becomes a work of art in the incredible Color Library, adjacent to the furnace, a showroom where an infinite number of shades are stored and encoded, over 3500, including 32 varieties of the precious mosaic gold of which Orsoni is the undisputed master in the world. A jewel that comes from a long process: the 24-karat gold leaf is placed between two layers of glass, one very thin to protect it and one for support, and then aged with a further passage in the furnace.
Witnessing this incredible workmanship makes you really understand why the Orsoni product has become a cult product of the Made in Italy, highly sought after for the most important residences in the world as well as by the most popular artists for the realization of their works of art.
Visits to the showroom are possible by contacting the Fornace directly, upon appointment.
Angelo Orsoni was also an inventor: in fact, he designed the rotary cylinder press to compress the incandescent glass paste and give greater uniformity to the surface of the final product, a tool very similar to the one still used today and from which the small mosaic tiles are born.