In 1921, Milanese lawyer Paolo Venini (1895-1959), Venetian antiques dealer Giacomo Cappellini, and Venetian glassmaker Andrea Rioda joined forces and founded Vetri Soffiati Muranesi Venini Cappellini & C. This union would dominate Italian glassmaking for over half a century, adding technical innovations to the craftsmanship and stylistic traditions of Venice glassmaking. They were particularly renowned for their soffiati classici vases based on ones seen in the works of Renaissance painters like Veronese and Holbein. The partnership came to an end after the group won a grand prix at the 1925 Paris “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes.” With sculptor Napoleone Martinuzzi as art director, Venini created a new company, noted for their humorous animal forms and potted plants in pulegoso (bubbled) glass. Until about 1931 when Martinuzzi left, Venini’s repertoire included chandeliers, fountains, leaded-glass windows and other architectural commissions. Architect Carlo Scarpa took over as art director in 1932 and notably oversaw the development of the Corroso (corroded) series with acid-treated surfaces. He also revived many older Venetian glassmaking techniques adding a modern approach, such as the historic filigrano technique using threads of glass canes. Venini’s well-known pieces under Scarpa include the Diamante series from the 1930s and the fazzoletti vessels of the 1950s. Fulvio Bianconi joined Venini in 1948 and contributed his well-known commedia dell’arte figures. In 1953 Massimo Vignelli began designing for the firm and notably created a series of desk and hanging lamps in translucent cream, tan or white-colored glass. Venini also invited other eminent designers like Gio Ponti, Tomaso Buzzi and Lanci Marelli to contribute designs. After Venini’s death in 1959 control passed to his widow Ginette and his son-in-law Ludovico de Santillana. In 1977, Sergio Biliotto and Aldo Tongana came to the firm as partners. At that time, V-Linea glassworks, founded in 1965 by Ludovico and Sergio Biliotto to utilize semi-automatic means of production, was coordinated with Venini allowing for the creation of new ranges of products. From the 1920s, Venini exhibited regularly at the Venice Biennale and the Monza and Milan Triennales as well as major world’s fairs.
Roberto Aloi, L’arredamento moderno. Milan: U. Hoepli, 1934.
Howard J. Lockwood, “Venini: the Beginning of an Era,” Echoes Report 4:1 (Summer 1995), 28-30, 44.
Howard J. Lockwood, “Venini: the Post-War Years,” Echoes Report (Fall 1995), 38-39, 45, 52.
Martin Eidelberg, “Venini S.p.A.,” in Design 1935-1965: What Modern Was (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1991), 403.
Revere McFadden, David, et. al., Venetian Glass: The Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu Collection (Milan and New York: Charta and the American Craft Museum, 2000), 242.