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Feature Article

Venini "Pezzato" vase #4319, Arlecchino color - click for larger view
When collecting Mid-Century accessories, nothing beats the color, shape, or emotion captured in post war Italian glass. The island of Murano, where the best Italian glass is manufactured, was closed down during the second world war. After the war ended, a sea of change took place. The pent up creativity of the glass designers combined with the rejection of the past caused a new dawning of glass as art. The exhibition "Italy at Work" brought the look and style of the new Italian designers to art museums when it toured the United States.

The use of modern materials in the States (bent plywood, canvas strapping, extruded metal, etc.) caused a wave of design consciousness that few European designers were able to meld into. The Italians, along with the Scandinavians, were successful in becoming part of the Modern Design movement, and established a design stronghold that persists to today.


The most important company in the glass collector's world is Venini. It was started by a lawyer from Milan, Paolo Venini (1895-1959) in 1925 after a partnership with Cappellin from 1921 to 1925 failed. He understood the importance of design to make his products desirable as a quality decorative item, not a tourist trinket. Before WW2, he hired Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978), who after the war pursued his chosen occupation of architecture and became the "Frank Lloyd Wright" of Italy. Scarpa's designs show architectural beauty in their use of shape, curves, and proportion rather than decoration or attachments.


After the war (1948) Venini hired a young illustrator as Scarpa's successor. His name was Fulvio Bianconi (1915-1996). He was a student of the Istituto d'Arte and the Accademia di Belle Art in Venice. During the 1930's he was employed by numerous publishing houses as a graphic artist and caricaturist. His sense of humor and admiration of the female form can be seen in his work on paper and in glass.

The most popular of Bianconi's designs are the Fazzoleti or handkerchief vase. It looks like a wet napkin made of glass draped upside down and frozen in place. Thousands of these were made in dozens of sizes, patterns and color combinations for the tourist trade. This vast production keeps the price reasonable as the supply is plentiful.


This vase is a different story. It is beautiful, rare, and part of a highly collectable series. It is called a "Pezzato," which means patchwork. This is model #4319. It was first shown in a series of five Pezzati at the Milan Trienale in 1951. The famous designer Gio Ponti was a great promoter of Venini and wrote in his magazine Domus "The collectors should throw themselves on these, leaving behind the figurines and glass flowers that Venini must make in order to sustain his furnace...."

The color of this vase is called Arlecchino, named after the character from the Commedia Dell'Arte (for you drama students). You will note the occasional white or opaque green and red patches. A similar color combination called Parigi (Paris) of red, green, blue and clear is highly desirable to collectors for its deep beauty and intensity. When combined with an under layer of white, the Arlechino is created. A pair of these vases is pictured on the cover of Franco Deboni's classic tome "Venini Glass" ISBN 88-422-0613-X, a must for any serious enthusiast.

Venini "Pezzato" vase #4319, Arlecchino color - click for larger view

If you want to start the juices flowing amongst glass collectors, bring up the argument surrounding the Pezzati color combinations. Here is a description of names and colors:

Arlecchino: occasional white or opaque green and red patches

Parigi (Paris): red, green, blue and clear

Americano: green, eggplant (appears black), yellow, clear

[Variation] Americano: blue, eggplant (appears black), yellow, clear

Stockholm: rose (pink), aquamarine (blue), grape (deep purple- appears almost black) mole gray

Venezia: rose (pink), aquamarine (blue), mole gray, clear (a lighter version of Stockholm)

Istanbul: yellow, purple, dark gray and clear

[Variation] Istanbul: rose, eggplant, yellow, purple, dark gray and clear

Asia: dark purple (appears black) turquoise, mole gray, clear

We have seen them all, and let me tell you for the record what else is out there. Recently we saw the spectacular Olnick Spanu Collection in New York. They have a vase which is similar to the Americano combination but the green squares are blue! They have an Istanbul vase with rose and black patches. We have two vases sold as Stockholm which are more likely Venezia which is a lighter variation with clear instead of black! We have recent correspondence with the Venini factory stating that there is also:

Bagdad: sapphire, tea, pale straw

Oslo: pale sapphire, light green, pale straw

Some of these colors are shown in the photos below. Click each image to see a larger photo:

Parigi color:

Venini "Pezzato" waisted vase

Venini "Ritorte" vase

Venini "Fascia Verticale" vase

Venini "Pezzato" bowl

Venini "Pezzato" large vase
Istanbul color:

Venini "Pezzato" 'cigar' vase

Venini "Pezzato" vase
Venezia color:

Venini "Pezzato" #4397 vase

Venini "Pezzato" vase
Americano color:

Venini "Pezzato" 'cooling tower' vase

Venini "Pezzato" vase

Venini "Pezzato" 'cigar' vase

Venini "Pezzato" bowl
Arlecchino color:

Venini "Pezzato" large vase

So, then what's up with the late 60's Pezzato from Germany (recently sold on ebay) in red, blue, light green and light maroon? Be warned that there are many incorrect identifications of colors in auction catalogs and on Ebay.

THE GOLDEN AGE: 1948 to 1967

The "golden age" of Venini lasted until approximately 1967, ending with Bianconi's Sasso series. When Paolo Venini died in 1959, much of the vitality was lost. The Venini company continued to develop new designs under the direction of Ludovico de Santillana. Architect Tobia Scarpa (son of Carlo) designed the wonderful Occhi series in 1960.

Venini "Occhi" vase by Tobia Scarpa - click for larger view

The American fiber artist, Thomas Sterns, produced some highly collectable designs including the Doges Hat. Venini continues to produce quality pieces and recently was sold to the company that owns Georg Jensen jewelry and Orrefors glass.

Venini vase by Thomas Stearns - click for larger view

In terms of pricing and collectabilty, the period from 1948-1967 is the most desirable in post-war Italian glass. Although many of the 1950's models are still being produced or reintroduced, they are replicas of the pieces that are collectable and should not be confused with the originals in terms of pricing or desirability as an investment (ebay'rs beware!)


Venini glass up to 1966, featured an acid stamped signature on the bottom center which usually reads "venini murano ITALIA" on three lines or a two line circle sometimes with "Italy" in the middle.

The interim between 1966 and 1970 used a diamond point engraved "venini italia" signature.

Occhi vase signature, 1966-1970

After 1970 will have a vibro-engraved signature of "venini italia" in script along the bottom edge with a year such as 83 or 96 for example.

For paper label identification, which is tricky as they can fall off as easily as they are stuck on, read Marc Heiremans seminal book Art Glass from Murano ISBN 3-925369-22-8.

These signatures can be polished off to give the appearance of older merchandise. There are also fake acid stamps on glass in the market place. If you are serious about collecting, accurate information is available from the Vetri Italian Glass News PO Box 191 Fort Lee, NJ 07024. There is also a eye-opening video tape from the Corning Glass Museum symposium held in 1997 with Helmut Ricke showing many copies and fakes.


In June of 2000 Christie's New York held an auction of 20th century "Masterworks", one of a kind objects of Modern design, including a Le Corbusier chaise lounge, a Rietveld Zig Zag chair, a Raymond Loewy metal pencil sharpener, a Perriand Biblioteque shelf, a wooden Volkswagen Beetle prototype, a set of Eames DCMs and Philip Johnson's Rockefeller guest house. Included in this sale was a Pezzato #4319 vase. It sold for $17,625.

For more information, please visit www.italian-glass.net

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copyright 2001 Joe Kunkel and Jetset - Designs for Modern Living and Joan Gand and Gary Gand