When people talk about Italian art glass, they are usually referring to the vases, paperweights, goblets, and decorative objects produced in the city of Venice and the adjacent island of Murano. Indeed, Murano is the heart of Italian glassmaking, the place where, in the late 13th century, glassmakers were banished lest their furnaces catch the rest of Venice on fire.

Even though the middle of the 19th century was a time of much innovation for Venetian and Murano artisans, the periods of interest to most collectors of antique and vintage Italian art glass are the years between the two world wars and the post-war decades of the 1950s and 1960s.

Ercole Barovier was perhaps the most influential figure of the 1920s and 1930s. His family’s glassmaking roots went all the way back to the Renaissance, and his family’s first company, Artisti Barovier, was established in 1878. In 1920, the firm changed its name to Vetreria Artistica Barovier & Co., which lasted until its merger with Ferro Toso in 1936.

Before Ercole Barovier took over the firm’s designs, his family’s company hired some of the best glass masters in Murano, including future Venini legend Vittorio Zecchini. For Barovier, Zecchini created murrine mosaic paintings on the sides of vases. Other examples combine several techniques—for example, a murrine goblet depicting flowers against a blue-sky background might have a very traditional, decorative Venetian knob between the goblet’s bowl and foot.

For its part, Ferro Toso was known in the 1920s and early 1930s for vases that combined classic Venetian forms with bold coloration. Toso’s Primavera series from this period is particularly prized, as are the pieces that were made using a new technique developed by Toso for coloring hot glass.

The post-war years were unquestionably Murano’s most glorious period. In the 1940s, Barovier & Toso produced thick, clear pieces with textured surfaces called Lenti, as well as the exceptional and highly colorful vases in the now-rare Oriente series. In the 1950s, Barovier & Toso would introduce flat-side cylindrical vases in basketweave cane patterns or checkerboard designs.

Seguso Vetri d’Arte was another firm that made strides in the 1930s but really came into its own after the war. Some of its thick, organic-shaped vases were three-sided, others w...

Of the post-war Murano glass factories, Venini is perhaps the most highly regarded, and certainly the best known. In addition to boasting the talents of Paolo Venini himself, who perfected the sommerso technique in the 1930s and used the traditional technique of inciso to create vases that appeared to glow from within, the company attracted architects and artists such as Carlo Scarpa, Fulvia Bianconi, and Gio Ponti to Murano.

Scarpa was considered the Frank Lloyd Wright of glass, which is to say that he injected modernism into the look of this traditional medium. After Scarpa left Venini in the 1940s to devote himself to architecture, his son, Tobia, joined the firm. Bianconi took his background as an illustrator and applied it to glass, using the emphatic forms produced by Venini’s glassblowers as armatures for his witty explorations of color—patchworks, horizontal stripes, and polka dots were particular favorites.

Ponti was an architect by training but Venini brought out the painter in him. For Venini, he designed flared vases constructed of nothing but multi-colored lengths of cane, or bottles wrapped in frilly spirals to suggest the lines of a skirt. Even his most ostensibly conservative pieces contained colorful twists, such as a bulbous-bottomed bottle whose body is perfectly bisected by a shift from red to green.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)



This fabulous site is a guide to Bohemian art glass makers from 1885 to 1920. Loetz was the premier Bohemian glass … [read review or visit site]

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Chris and Val Stewart’s impressive attempt to create a complete catalogue of all known cloud glass, a decorative … [read review or visit site]

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

The heart of this website, home of the Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club, is the Identification Project, whe… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Tall 35" ~ Hand Blown Glass Contemporary Art Sculpture, By Dirwood, Murano StyleVintage Rare Barovierl Murano Glass Bird Statue Paperweight Original Tags Great Big Wild Murano Sommerso Vase, Flavio Poli, Da Ros, Seguso, CenedeseMid Century Modern Large Italian Murano Glass Figurine Love BirdsStunning Vintage Murano Ruby Red BowlHand Blown Glass Art Wall Bowl Platter, Dirwood, Murano Style, End Of Day Glass®Large Murano Glass 9" Mid Century Gold Aventurine & Green Sitting Duck Fab Large Vintage Murano Glass Bowl 2 Bird Bath Easter Centerpiece Adventurine Vintage Murano Glass - Archimede Seguso - Large Duck - Rare Excellent 1950'sCarlo Moretti Signed Le Rientranti Bowl Murano Italy New In Box 662.54Venetian Glass Genuine Dino Martens Square BowlMurano Glass Bowls4 Vintage Ann Primrose Cristalleria D'arte Murano Glass Prismatic Perfume BottleOggetti Italy Murano PelicanArchimedes Seguso Murano Glass Venetian Multi Colored Duck ~fabulous Colors~Venetian Glass Genuine Dino Martens Oval Bowl Rare Murano Venetian Art Glass Dancers Man/woman Figurines – W/gold FlecksStunning Murano Red Pink Bird Companion Piece To Easter Centerpiece Adventurine Stunning Murano Blue Bird Companion Piece To Easter Centerpiece Adventurine Rare Beautiful Vintage Italian Murano Cranberry Glass Lamp Base Vintage Murano Graduating Glass 3 Pc Christmas Tree Sculpture Set Gold Fleck Nr Vtg Barovier Toso Ashtray Bowl Mid Century Modern Venini Murano Era 8 Pc Vintage Murano Venetian Art Glass Eames Atomic Decanter Cordial Liquor SetVintage Murano Italian Glass Vase Sommerso Layered Blue Green Controlled DetailsGorgeous Victorian Art Glass Wedding Basket Twisted Thorn Handle MuranoBeautiful Vintage Franco Moretti Murano Glass Toucan W/millefiori Eyes 6 Vintage Venini Murano Crystal Glass 4 Sided Quatro Punta Chandelier Prism 11"Pair Murano Coral Salmon Red W/ Gold Ashtray Bowls Barbini Rare ColorLarge Bundle Of Glass Animals Murano/pirelliStriking Large Orange Cased Vase, Empoli, Murano, Italy, 1970sFantastic Murano Paperweight Beautiful Murano Venetian Art Glass Dancers Man/woman Figurines – W/gold FlecksAvem Murano Italian Venetian Art Glass Perfume Bottle Gold Aventurine StopperMurano Mandruzzato Flavio Poli Sommerso Glass Facet Cut Geode Bowl Mid-centuryMurano Dino Martens Mini Vase20 Piece Assortment Italian Venetian Art Glass Candy Murano (lot B)Vintage Murano Heavy Italian Art Glass Gold Ashtray Bowl Murano Italy Display Dish Full Of 12 Handmade Gold Stone Game Size Marbles - Lot2 Art Glass Orange And Blue Flower Murano Style Long Stem Hand Blown 15"Rare Murano Crystal White & Gold Glass Cockatoo Parrot Sculpture Made In ItalyMurano ? Blue-brown Geode Style Round 10" Bowl Mid Century SleekVintage Murano Italian Art Glass Paperweight Latticino & Twisted Ribbon PastelVintage Murano Italian Venetian Art Glass Perfume Bottle Latticino Ribbon Gold Avem Murano Italian Venetian Art Glass Perfume Bottle Gold Aventurine StopperAntique Italian Venetian Murano Latticino Swirling Twist Glass VaseMurano/pirelli Glass Animals, Elephant/giraffeAvem Murano Italian Venetian Art Glass Perfume Bottle Latticino Ribbon Gold Vintage Venetian Murano Eastern Art Glass Bowl Red White Stripes SignedVintage Italian Murano Venetian Art Glass Blue & White Latticino Ribbon Vase Four Vintage Carlo Moretti Style Orange And Clear Satin Wine Water Goblets8 1/2" Murano Art Glass Blue Green Handmade Vase Vintage 1960's/70's Italian Murano Paperweight With Stars~~ Murano Glass Large Scottie Scottish Terrier Dog ~~ Pirelli Glass ? ~~Murano Art Glass Millefiori Paper WeightMurano Glass Cobalt Blue-green-red Square Perfume Bottle Stopper Wand Rare Vintage Murano Glass Ballerina FigurineLarge Blown Glass Murano Latticino Oriental Asian Woman Paperweight Signed ZaneVenetian Murano Art Glass Vase Orange And Blue With HandlesVintage Murano Glass Fish MulticolorCovered Dish-empoli Apothecary Jar-mid Century Empoli Optic Dark Honey Amber Gla