Italian glass Italian glass
A resource for collectors
Venini -The largest and most successful of the Murano glass furnaces, still in business in Murano. Established in 1925 by Paolo Venini. Venini embraced Modernism trends in art and architecture with their new designs in elegant shapes and colors. Venini also was known for their use of designers to bring new ideas to Murano. Their designers included Napoleon Martinuzzi, Tommaso Buzzi, Carlo Scarpa, Gio Ponti, Tyra Lundgren, and Fulvio Bianconi.Venini still produces a beautiful line of art vases, some are classic designs, and some new designs introduced every year. Take great care, as occasionally the new “classic” vases are mistaken for the older originals. Venini vases are signed, and the type of signature can give a clue to the age of the piece.

Paolo Venini - (1895-1959) Law school graduate from Milan. Started Cappellin Venini & Co in 1925. Took the Murano tradition of glass blowing and combined it with the French fashion industry tradition of using designers. They broke away from the traditional Novecento style based on ancient Roman designs found in oil paintings. These new vases propelled the glass industry into the 20th century using the artistic designs of architect Carlo Scarpa and his ideas of modern shape and experimental coatings. After WW2 he hired illustrator Fulvio Bianconi as designer ushering in Murano’s most important era of creativity, popularity and collectability. A great designer in his own right created the mosaico-zanfirico, and a murrine styles which are collectable because of their rarity.He created the “handkerchief vase” (fazzoletto), in collaboration with Fulvio Bianconi. Paolo Venini’s name is stil synonymous with impeccable taste, style and entrepreneurship.

Carlo Scarpa - (1906-1978) Known as the Frank Lloyd Wright of Italy. He reshaped the forms used by Venini and influenced all 20th century glass making with his “Modern” designs, new color coatings, and new techniques. He gave up glass design during WW2 to devote his talents to architecture. Scarpa is considered the “brand name” in investment quality collectable glass. His son Tobia designed the successful Occhi series for Venini and continues as a well-known furniture designer.

Tobia Scarpa - (1935) son of Carlo Scarpa, was born in Venice, where he graduated from the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia. In 1958, he was invited by Paolo Venini to collaborate in the furnace, following in the footsteps of his father, Carlo, who had been with Venini during the '30s and '40s. Tobia Scarpa designed new collections for Venini even after the death of its founder, creating new techniques as well. The Occhi series is his most recognizable design. The word Occhi means “eyes” and you will see some examples below. As an architect and designer, together with his wife, Afra, he has collaborated with many companies - Cassina, B & B Italia, Flos, Molteni & C., to name a few - in creating works that belong to the best tradition of Italian design.

Fulvio Bianconi - (1915-1996) was a college trained illustrator and caricaturist. After WW2 he came to Murano to study glass techniques and met Paolo Venini. Venini spotted the incredible talent and hired him in 1947. Bianconi became the most successful designer of the Golden Age of Italian glass: post WW2 to 1969. Bianconi brought a sensuality and colorful excitement to glass. All of his shapes are derived from the female form in some way. He created the pezzati (patches) series, which became Venini’s most popular design, still produced today. Other designs include sasso, fasce orrizontali, sirena, and the extremely rare bikini vase. His numerous pieces are highly collectible and well documented.

Thomas Stearns - (1936-2006) was the first American to design for Venini from 1959 to 1961 on Fulbright Travel Grant. He came from Cranbrook Academy, and showed up in Murano with new ideas, and no knowledge of the Italian language. From this seemingly impossible situation, Stearns created ground-breaking designs and won the ?best of show? award at the Venice Bienalle of 1962. The judges rescinded the award when it was revealed that he was an American. His pieces made the leap from functional glass to glass as sculpture inaugurating the studio glass movement. His highly collectable designs include the doges hat, spiralato, the facades, and the Sentinel of Venice (only two remaining in existence). Stearns’ designs proved too difficult to put into mass production making them rare and highly valued. They are difficult to collect as only approximately 30 pieces are known to exist.

Photos Credits:
The Olnik/Spanu Collection
Retro Gallery
Dan Ripley

Venini, Barovier, Capellin, AVEM, Aureliano Toso, Seguso, Vistosi

A resource for collectors