If ever a
region was going to be recognised as a centre for the creation of decorative
glassware produced to the most exacting of standards, then it was going to be
Italy – and Venice in particular – home of some of the most exquisitely
fabricated pieces borne from a 500 year history of expertise and craftsmanship.
producers of 20th century art glass can trace their roots back through the twists
and turns of an industry dating to the renaissance, with Ercole Barovier being
one such figure. While traditional Murano glass is perhaps known for its
flamboyant form, with serpentine adornments and decorative threads approaching
the fineness of filigree wirework and arabesques, more modern Italian Art Glass
such as that created by workmen under Barovier’s stewardship shows more of a
tendency towards stunning decoration being applied to surfaces rather than
instance, is renowned for his creation of “murrine” mosaic-like patterns on the
sides of vases or the face of plates and dishes. Textured rather than simply
flat surfaces were also explored, with “lenti” pieces using the lenticular
nature of facetted glass to produce stunning refractive effects, and vases made
to approximate wicker or basketweave cane patterns were also popular.
and Salvati were the two firms who lead Italian glass production through the
heady days of the 1930’s and beyond as the art glass movement gathered
momentum. The use of distorted forms and shapes was their forte, but the use of
surface decoration was also writ large in their portfolio, with the faces of
many pieces assuming the role of canvases for the reproduction of extravagantly
coloured designs encompassing the abstract and impressionistic aesthetic of
mid-century modern art.
Venini’s manufactory came to the fore, using innovative sommerso and inciso
techniques to produce some stunning vases which gave the impression of being
illuminated from inside. Similar methods were used by later designers such as
Gio Ponti to produce pieces which featured the apparently seamless transition
from one colour to another as their main facet – graduations which seemed to
shift and flow depending on the perspective from which you looked at the piece.
Such subtleties would, though, make an abrupt counterpoint to other more
strident explorations of colour which tended towards modernistic, pop-art
themes – brash stripes, patchworks, checkerboards and polkadots, and pieces
made from compressed, coloured canes, interwoven broader strands and fused
panels of smooth or textured glass.