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 were twisted and pulled until they resembled an elephant’s trunk. Salviati’s Dino Martens brought a more painterly sensibility to Murano glass, using vase and jug forms as canvases for vividly colored abstract-expressionistic statements that were perfectly in tune with the Mid-century Modern aesthetic of the day.
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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Lipstick & Hollywood GlamOttawa At Home, May 22nd
Looking up, a modern chandelier in hand-blown Murano glass hangs from the ten-foot ceiling. It holds its own space without distracting the eye from the intricate crown-molding plasterwork, which is a hallmark of Federalist splendour in every room...Read more
Italian Artist's Mosaic Tile Pieces On Display At Pennsylvania Convention CenterCBS Local, May 22nd
The mosaics, made of Italian glass, came down when the building was transformed into a hotel. Now, the Hotel Palomar has donated them to the Convention Center. Grom, who is approaching his 95th birthday this summer, is delighted to see their re-use.:...Read more
Clock collection chimes with the bidders at Nantwich auctionCrewe Chronicle, May 22nd
Pick of the collection was an 'Oriente' ewer in Murano glass by the Italian painter and designer Dino Martens, which sold an internet bidder for £3,200 against an estimate of £500-800. In all the collection, of 42 lots, sold for a total of £18,000. The...Read more
Design Classics with Gatsby Flair Set the Stage for a Swank 5/25 Sale at Palm ...EcommWire (press release), May 21st
One of them, Fuga's “Murrine Incantante” gourd-form vase, is a 1950 production similar to an example in Rosa Barovier Mentasti's book Anzolo Fuga: Murano Glass Artist, Works for A.V.E.M. It carries an estimate of $4,000-$6,000. Art Deco or mid-century...Read more
Warhol, Nakashima, Chihuly, Peterson and More to Feature in Kaminski ...PR Web (press release), May 20th
The Twentieth century sale will also present a number of decorative pieces from well known Modern designers, including Kosta Boda, as well as a broad selection of Murano glass pieces. Of particular interest is a Sven Palmquist for Orrefors monumental...Read more
The Venice Biennale preview: Let the art games commenceThe Independent, May 18th
More than 50 artists, including Tracey Emin, Cornelia Parker and Ron Arad, present new work made in Murano glass, at the Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti. Ai Weiwei. The dissident Chinese artist , shows new work in the church of Sant' Antonin. Antoni Tàpies...Read more
Don't Miss: May 10-17Wall Street Journal, May 9th
LONDON: Adrian Lester is the National's near-perfect Othello and Rory Kinnear the testosterone-oozing, if not quite mysterious enough, Iago. Nicholas Hytner's contemporary military staging both makes the racism of the opening scenes particularly...Read more
GlassOfVenice.com Prepares to Launch New Murano Glass Information PortalPR Web (press release), April 29th
GlassOfVenice.com, the online retailer of directly imported authentic Murano Glass from Venice, Italy is getting ready to launch new Murano Glass information portal for its customers and all Murano Glass enthusiasts worldwide. The unique portal will...Read more