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.
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What's Hot: Belmond unveils new restaurant in VeniceHOTELS, April 23rd
Interior designer Adam Tihany created the space; the main dining room has a domed ceiling decorated with gold leaf and a Murano glass chandelier. The décor includes Seguso chandeliers, chairs upholstered with Rubelli fabric, Luciano Vistosi's emerald ...Read more
Wayne offers helping handWigan Today, April 23rd
Wayne began working at a jewellery factory and within a year, he had set up his own designing business Mikash with his wife, Lei Xue producing Murano glass beads for charm bracelets on site. He supplied to many large Denmark-based outlets and dealt ...Read more
Belmond Hotel Cipriani unveils Oro RestaurantBreaking Travel News, April 22nd
Reflecting the restaurant's name, the main dining room sits under a domed gold leafed ceiling embellished with a stunning handmade Murano glass chandelier. Intricate details include Seguso chandeliers, fine Rubelli chair fabrics, three emerald green...Read more
Belmond Hotel Cipriani Unveils New Oro RestaurantLuxury Travel Magazine, April 21st
The main dining room of Oro Restaurant sits under a domed gold leafed ceiling embellished with a stunning handmade Murano glass chandelier. Wrought iron chairs and stone tables furnish the terrace of Oro, positioned directly on the Rio San Giorgio, the ...Read more
Creating a quiet retreat for the ladies of the manorNew Jersey Hills, April 21st
The exquisite chandelier is hand-blown Murano glass from Italy and is a true statement piece – feminine, classic, and modern – a perfect match for Bevill's design for the ladies' retreat, she said. Editor's note: Kim Sullivan Harwanko is the co-chair...Read more
Milan 2014: Materials Explorations from Studio Formafantasma and Bart Hess at ...Core77.com (blog), April 21st
Drawing on their own vocabulary, these solitary glass boxes and mysterious black buildings have been finished with such archetypal Formafantasma detailing as cotton ribbons and Murano glass plaques. Formafantasma-DeNaturaFossilium-3-Tables.jpg...Read more
Window-gazing leads to documenting church artRochester Democrat and Chronicle, April 19th
It features mosaic work from glass made in the famed Murano Glass Works of Venice. In it, St. Paul is on the left with his "sword of the spirit," Jesus is in the center with a halo made of mother of pearl, and St. Peter is carrying a set of "keys to...Read more
Grapevines and grand galleriesThe Australian, April 18th
As we speed along the Grand Canal, dodging a late-night gondola or two, we catch tantalising glimpses of the opulent interiors of the palazzo lining the waterway — murano glass chandeliers highlight floor-to-ceiling frescoes with windows draped in...Read more