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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Cloud Glass Reference Site
Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club
Clubs & Associations
- Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club
- The Glass Art Society
- Stained Glass Association of America
- The Glass Association
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Murano and Italian Art Glass
Source: Google News
For the First Time in 300 Years, a New Permanent Sculpture Will Grace VersaillesSmithsonian, July 31st
Even the individual elements of the fountains have nods to history. The hand-blown Murano glass beads weigh between 4 and 8 kilograms (between 8 and 17 pounds) and contain gold leaf, which was used in bulk at the opulent Versailles. The nozzles of the ...Read more
Sarah Beeny's Narnia dreamDerby Telegraph, July 31st
In the latest series of room renovations, focusing on the south wing of Rise Hall, in Yorkshire, Sarah and Graham have drawn upon the aesthetics of Trend Italian glass mosaic tiles, available from Granite Transformations. The geometric style of Trend's...Read more
Veronese to showcase colorful pieces at Maison&ObjetYahoo Philippines News, July 31st
Luxury French lighting studio Veronese is teaming up with French designer Reda Amalou on a glittering project for the prestigious Maison&Objet design salon in Paris this September. The designer, who created the Murano glass piece "Ceci n'est pas une ...Read more
My IDentity Doctor Now Offers Medical ID Bracelet with Green & White Murano ...DigitalJournal.com, July 30th
My IDentity Doctor has enhanced the variety in their collection and included fashion to. They are now offering Medical ID Bracelets with Green & White Murano Glass Hearts. These jewelry not only perform the crucial function of informing medical...Read more
Molly Abraham Wright & Company is a new downtown dining gemThe Detroit News, July 29th
Still to come are a presumably beautiful Murano glass chandelier that will hang in one corner of the room (on its way from a DuMouchelle auction) and vintage-style fans to spin over the banquettes. Tall windows on two sides are uncovered, letting in...Read more
Gimav Reports Growth for Italian Glass Machinery Industry in 2013Glass Magazine, July 28th
Sales and exports increased for the Italian glass processing machinery industry in 2013, according to a survey from Gimav, the Italian Association of Glass Processing Machinery and Accessory Suppliers. During the year, industry sales increased 2.9...Read more
What's It Worth: Murano glass, Davis sewing machineRichmond Times-Dispatch, July 26th
I inherited an old sewing machine marked “Davis S.M. Co., Dayton, O, U.S.A.” but I can't find any information about my particular model (marked with the number 2426352). I found one like it made in 1909, but I'm not sure if that date applies to mine...Read more
First Edition of Murano Glass MastersThe Venice Times, July 10th
The first edition of Murano Glass Masters comes to Murano Island, the magical place in Venice, to honor its famous glass masters. It is the first festival that offers to the public a special way to discover the story of the Italian Capital of Glass...Read more