Ahead of our 31 October Design Sale, Head of Department, Otto Billström, explores the history of this iconic masterpiece.
11 October 2023
Having come to define 20th-century glassmaking, as well as developing several groundbreaking techniques, Paolo Venini’s life was set on a completely different course as he returned from the war. However, it was during his posting near Venice - where he was awestruck by the stainedglass windows of St Marks Basilica - that his interest in glassmaking was awoken. Returning to civilian life, he trained and practised as a lawyer in his native Milan, where he came to befriend Giacomo Capellini, a local antiques dealer. Sharing Paolo’s passion for the rich heritage of Venetian glass, the two travelled to Venice in 1921, where they purchased a derelict glass factory on the island of Murano.
The ensuing years were riddled with conflict with a lack of direction failing to emerge, resulting in Capellini abandoning the venture in 1925. With sole control of the company’s vision, and straying from convention in favour of pioneering modern conventions exhibited in Paris and Scandinavia, Paolo soon saw the company rising to fame with major commissions earned throughout Italy.
The decades under Paolo’s leadership saw the emergence of art glass as we’ve come to recognise it in a contemporary sense, moving it away from the techniques of the early 20th century and continuously pushing the technical boundaries of glassmaking, resulting in increasingly impressive pieces. This was aided by an active collaboration with some of the leading contemporaries of architecture and design, which included the likes of Gio Ponti, Carlo
Scarpa, and Ettore Sottsass, ushering in an era of technically advanced pieces which still perplex glass-blowers to this day.
Paolo Venini (Italian, 1895-1959) A Murrine A Dame Vase (£15,000-25,000)
Introduced in 1953 and formally unveiled at the 1954 Venice Biennale, the ‘Dama’ was one of four patterns of the ‘Murrine’ series. Also comprising the ‘Mezzaluna’, ‘Puntini’ and ‘Pavone’ patterns, the technique is often considered some of Venini’s most challenging to produce, due to its laborious process of manufacture. The process starts with murine glass rods being heated into a sheet, before being joined and blown into shape, leaving little margin for error and resulting in a low number of vases being produced. Whilst this meant that the shapes had to be kept simplistic, the achieved effect is anything but, rendering fine swirls of mosaic, which bends and morphs throughout the surface.
We are incredibly proud to offer, as part of our October Design sale, one of the most sought-after vases of Venini’s production, considered by many to be among the pinnacle of technical accomplishment achieved by the company under Paolo Venini’s leadership. This, along with other pieces of select art glass, will be offered in our 31 October Design sale.
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