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    

Rare 1960 Vistosi Murano Glass Pianon Murrine Vase Bottle Mid Century CenedeseSigned Archimede Seguso Murano Italy Venetian Art Glass Drake Duck Bird FigurineRare & Important Italian Venini Sommerso Murano Red Gold Art Glass Vase SignedVintage Signed Venini Murano Italian Art Glass Iridescent Fish SculptureSigned Massive 25cmcm Murano Sommerso Faceted Art Glass Block Vase MandruzzatoVintage Murano Italian Art Glass Green/tan Jug Signed 9 3/4"Beautiful Art Glass Paperweight Millefiori & Twistd Ribbons Perthshire Or Murano18" Tall Vtg Italian Cobalt Apothecary Style Art Glass Store Display Bottle! YqzMurano Italy Hand Blown Cased Gold Dust Lime Green Duck Bird Art Glass FigurineVintage Murano Sommerso Triple Cased Art Glass Vase & Whitefriars VaseRare! Huge 1960s Murano Sommerso 4 Colour Art Glass Faceted Vase 24.1cm & LabelVenini Ricardo Licata Murrines Band Murano Lamp Base 3 Line Etch & LblFratelli Toso Murano Venetian Italian Glass Vase W/ Murrines & Handles 1920'sSuperb 19thc Venetian Glass Bowl With Intricate Coloured Decoration C1890sMurano Italy Dichroic Cased Rooster Cock Hand Blown Art Glass Bird Sculpture NrVintage Italian Murano Art Glass Pair Of Red Controlled Bubble Vases ItalyMurano Italy Pink Gold Glass Bubble Bullicante Bowl Seguso BarbiniPr Murano Italy Black Cased Gold Dust Heavenly Angel Studio Art Glass FigurinesSuperb 19th C Orig Venetian Glass With Intricate Coloured Decoration C1890sAppealing Vintage Latticino Glass Paperweight/ Appears To Be ItalianMurano Italy Sommerso Cased Studio Hand Blown Art Glass Ruffled Rim Vase Bowl NrIcet Arte Murano Studio Hand Blown White Black Drake Duck Glass Bird Figurine NrLarge 22" Hand Blown Glass Art Wall Bowl Platter By Dirwood Murano Murrini Hand Blown Glass Art Wall Bowl Platter By Dirwood Murano Aqua Red Gold BlueVintage Murano Cased Glass Vase & BowlMurano Italy Studio Hand Blown Art Glass Circus Musician Carnival Clown FigurineSuperb 19th C. Venetian Circular Glass Bowl With Intricate Coloured Decor C1890sAmazing! Huge Murano Sommerso Vibrant Turquoise Space Age Art Glass Bowl VesselVintage Italian Venetian Murano Red Gold Art Glass Scalloped Ashtray BowlMurano Italy Studio Hand Blown Controlled Bubbles Cased Glass Domed PaperweightSigned/labelled Murano Multi Coloured Pezzato Patchwork Glass Vase By BallarinLarge Murano Sommerso Blue Cased Glass Vase (chipped)2 Vintage Murano Glass Hand Made Sommerso Faceted Glass Vases Fatto A Mano LabelLarge Hand Blown Glass Art Vase/bowl ~ Murano ~ End Of Day Glass® ~ By DirwoodGreat Murano Fratelli Toso Aquarium Paperweight W/labelMurano Faceted Art Glass Perfume BottleVintage Italian Red Glass Florence Gilt Decanter 5 Liqueur/wine/sherry GlassesMurano Italy Amber Cherry Red Sommerso Cased Hand Blown Art Glass Duck SculptureBeautiful Murano Fratelli Toso Fazzoletto Vase With Filigree. With LabelFine Vintage Pink Latticino Swirl Faceted Glass VaseSigned & Label Giant Murano Alexandrite Neodymium Art Glass Ashtray A.da RosVtg Murano Venetian Art Glass Ashtray Bowl Red Sommerso Aventurine BubblesMurano Studio Hand Blown Cased Glass Brown Yellow Stripe Tropical Fish Sculpture���� Murano. Art. Glass Orange. Vase �� 60's. / 70'sOld Murano Glass 4.5in Square Embedded Multi Color & Gold Infused BowlMurano Solid Glass ClownVintage Mid Century Modern Pink Opalescent Murano Art Glass Bowl Bubbles 6.25"Murano Alfredo Barbini Golden 10 1/4" Gold Fleck Venetian Art Glass Vase VotiveAntique/vintage Murano Glass Paperweight With Very Colorful Floral Decorations Signed! X Rare Murano Art Glass Studio Vase Gold Leaf By Simone Cenedese8 Pc. Cobalt Czech Blown Crystal Liquor Decanter Set 18k Gold Hand DecoratedMurano Venetian Mid Century Hand Blown Art Glass Dish Bowl Ashtray Murano Sommerso Tall Slender Vase In Pale Blue & Green Uranium Galliano FerroGigantic! Rare Murano Open Shell Pearlescent Art Glass Biomorphic Dish By FerroMurano Italy Cased Amber Blue Controlled Bubbles Dolphin On Ball Glass FigurineItalian Glass Paper Weight: (murano Italy) Flower ArrangementVintage Murano Venetian Glass Millefiori Art Glass Christmas Tree 10 1/2"Murano Mandruzzato Mid Century Modern Triple Sommerso Art Glass Cobalt Vase Murano Glass Paperweight Latticino Ribbons Blue Pink Green & WhiteSigned Angelo Ballarin Master Piece Murano Pezzato Spiral Glass Vase & Stopper