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”)

Loetz.com

Loetz.com

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    

Vintage Swirl Latticino Murano Venetian Art Glass Small Flower Vase Hand PaintedMurano Italy Emerald Green Amber Cigar Cigarette Ashtray Dish Glass Bowl Nr AlbVintage Swirl Latticino Murano Venetian Art Glass Small Flower Vase Hand Painted4 Vintage Murano Millefiori Style???? Paperweights Art Glass Sculptures FiguresVintage Spiral Twist Sommerso Murano Glass Lamp BaseGumps Italian Murano Art Glass Multi Colored Jewel Pw Paper Weight 3 Piece LotOrig Renato Anatra Large Italian Murano Art Glass Swirl Modernist Sculpture Yqz2 Gumps Italy Murano Art Glass Multi Gold Leaf And Paper Weights SetBarovier & Toso Venetian Hand Blown Art Glass Gold Dust Lady Dancer Figurine AlbVinage Murano? Glass Vase Handblown Art Glass Latticino Millefiori Formia Vetri Di Murano Art Glass 10-1/2" Purple Bird Exotic Birds Of The World Pair Archimede Seguso Murano Pink/coral Bird Duck W/ LabelsVintage Murano Millefiori Miniature Glass Vase Fratelli Toso?Large 25" Hand Blown Glass Art Wall Bowl Platter By Dirwood Murano Murrini StyleCampanella L. (livio) Murano Glass Vase Millefiori Handblown Made In ItalyPair Of Venetian Murano Glass Figures ~ Dancing Couple Gentleman Lady From 60th2 Gumps Italy Murano Art Glass Multi Jewel And Gold Swirl Paper Weights SetOutstanding Large Murano Aquarium. Made In ItalyVintage Italian Glass Millefiori Tulip Trumpet Small Lamp Shade 5 5/8"Signed R Austin Large Italian Murano Art Glass Swirl Modernist Sculpture Nr YqzMurano Sommerso Style 1960s Vintage Kingfisher Blue Glass Lamp Base Hand Blown Glass Art Bowl/vase, Dirwood, Murano Style, End Of Day Glass® Antique Murano Glass Lamp On Gilt Metal Base, Pink/copper SwirlsFine Vintage Italian Murano Millefiori Cane Art Glass Paperweight Clear Crystal Vtg F. & M. Ballarin Vetri Artistici Soffiati Murano Italy Etched Glass Vase Nr1970 Glass Vase Venini Murano Sarpaneva Hollywood Regency Modernist Free-formCarlo Moretti Calici Collection Champagne Flute 1997 #4 Italian Art Glass Murano Italy Millefiori Hand Blown Vase With Handles Chocolate Caramel ColorsVintage Italian Glass Millefiori Tulip Trumpet Small Lamp Shade 5 3/4"Vintage Murano Sommerso Vase, Mid-century Modern, Italy, Art Glass, Red, 5 1/2"Massive 1950's Signed Fulvio Bianconi Venini Fazzoletto Cased Glass VaseVenini Glass Paperweight Toso Barovier Seguso Murano Decanter Twist Cobalt Glass Mid Century Rare Murano Salviatti 3 Art Deco Gold Fleck Fish Glass Bowl Wow Save MeNeat Vintage Mid-century Era Italian Purple Textured Glass Genie Bottle DecanterVintage Art Glass. A Pair Of 6" Murano Italian Ducks. Gorgeous & With Label.Gorgeous Murano Art Glass Swallow Bird Figure Colorful Murano Millefiori Canes Ribbons Art Glass Paperweight, Ferro LazzariniMurano Millefiori Pedestal Paperweight - Four Petal Flower On Gold Aventurine Archmedes Seguso Art Glass Duck Made For La Tour D' Argent, Paris - StunningVintage Alfredo Barbini Blue Art Glass Bird Figurine Murano Italy *nice*Lot Of 12 Pieces Of Murano? Glass Wrapped CandiesBarovier Toso Murano Cobalt Blue Gold Flecks Art Glass Bird Figurine SculptureArchimede Seguso Murano Glass Horse Head Made For CartierCarlo Moretti Calici Collection Champagne Flute 1993 #4 Italian Art Glass Murano ? Gold Flecks Glass Chicken Vintage Pair Murano Art Glass Ashtray Chunky Globular Dish Gold / Green Italy Salviati Murano Glass Blue Glass Trinket Or Dresser DishVintage Collectable Murano Glass Guitar Playing Clown1960s-70sVintage Small Murano Glass Vase-gold And Cobalt Blue-with LabelBlenko Winslow Anderson #967 Glass Flat-sided Pitcher In Sea GreenMid-century Murano Cased Glass Vase Black White Cut Carved Moretti,venini ItalyEmpoli Verde Italian Art Glass Apothecary Jar Green Atomic Mid Century 16.5" Murano Gambaro&poggi Italian Art Glass Red Green Christmas Tree-original LabelVintage Blue Opaline Murano Glass Jewel Casket Hand Painted Zuccarelli PastoraleFabulous Vintage Mid-century Rare Periwinkle Textured Italian Glass Genie BottleVenetian Vase HandlesMid Century Vintage Glass Tall Candy Dish Jar Enesco Italy Green Cobalt BlueSeguso Vda Murano Opaline Owl Paperweight 1950s LabelVenetian Mosaic Murano Ornament Ball Italian Art Glass 2004