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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Palm Beach Modern to Auction Boutique Selections by Sought-after and Cutting ...PR Newswire (press release), February 12th
Many of the greatest names in midcentury Murano glass production are represented by rare and iconic pieces seldom available for purchase. Those designers include Ercole Barovier, Tobia Scarpa, Anzolo Fuga, and Giulio Radi. Twelve pieces of exquisite ...Read more
NH Collection Venezia Palazzo BarocciTelegraph.co.uk, February 11th
But an enthusiastic, friendly and eager-to-oblige young crew help to make the experience pleasantly personal. Old photos of Venice from the Alinari collection and some striking pieces of Murano glass bring a touch of the city into the place, and a...Read more
The Ruinart Lighthouse illuminates art, history and Chardonnaywallpaper.com, February 11th
The work was created alongside the glaziers at Italian glass masters Murano. His piece focuses on man's relationship with nature, illustrating the ripening cycle of Ruinart's grapes. Le Gall admits, 'When you have a [glass] of champagne in your hand...Read more
Top 10: the best Amalfi Coast hotelsTelegraph.co.uk, February 10th
Whichever, it works, mainly because the incredible all-white interiors, including bedrooms, are both stunning and superbly kept, as fresh as the day they were finished, and the artworks, particularly the Cuban Murano glass sculptures, are perfect...Read more
Romantic Venice: what to do and where to stayTelegraph.co.uk, February 10th
delightfully decorated with subtle tones, beautiful dark-wood furniture and marble bathrooms. The Sala Noire with its black Murano glass chandelier is deliciously decadent. The five rather less ornate deluxe rooms and two top-floor suites are...Read more
Venice: a girl's guide to the best shops, hotels and restaurantsTelegraph.co.uk, February 10th
For showstopping vintage Italian jewellery visit Le Gioie di Bortolo (Campo di San Bartolomeo 5536, San Marco). The best modern Murano glass is by Venini. Breathtaking colours and shapes (venini.it). Store is an old-style haberdasher's much loved for...Read more
Toby Stephens's Venice: My Kind of TownTelegraph.co.uk, February 10th
Some Murano glass or Venetian masks. I've bought both, although I haven't been to the city when the Venice Carnival (venice-carnival-italy.com) takes place, as I don't enjoy crowds. But I'm sure it is worth attending. Anywhere that isn't your kind of town?...Read more
Top 10: London hotels with river viewsTelegraph.co.uk, July 31st
Rooms are large and fresh, safely traditional without being frumpy – white on white sheets with a discreet gold pattern, lots of linen, Murano glass chandeliers – and bathrooms have all the bits without being gimmicky. The famous River Room – now open...Read more