Rough Draft

Adriana Christesen on Dec 5th 2011

Here is the rough draft of my paper.


Adriana Christesen

Art History 470Z- Venice

Professor M. Och

09 December 2011


Carlo Scarpa in Glass

            Through the use of unique and experimental methods, Carlo Scarpa broke conventions practiced for hundreds of years in Murano glassmaking. Scarpa’s ingenuity in technique and modern style of glassmaking has produced some of the most original and innovative examples of handmade glass in Venetian history.

Located only one mile off the Venetian mainland is the small island of Murano. Murano is best known for its production of beautiful glasswares dating back to the tenth century.[i] However, the interest in glass and glassmaking have been contributed to Venice’s legacy in glass can be traced back to the Roman Empire.[ii] It was only when many glassworkers retreated east to areas surrounding Venice in order to escape barbarian invasion in the fifth century that glassmaking began in eastern Italy. Roman inhabitants of town of Aquileia, a noted glassmaking town in the Adriatic Sea, migrated to the Venetian lagoon.[iii] In the year 1292, all glassmaking in Venice was restricted to the island in order to prevent the spread of fire on Venice proper. Glass furnaces were banned in an ordinance written by the Venetian Maggior Consiglio (Grand Council), which required the relocation of all glassmakers to Murano.[iv]

Glassmaking was an extremely prosperous business. The glassmakers of the time became some of the most notable members of Venetian society. Glassmaking guilds were established for master glassblowers, generally men of local descent. Many restrictions were placed upon glassmakers in order to protect the large monopoly of Venetian glass. Workers were threatened with death if they chose to leave the island. They were forbidden to teach their craft with permission from authorities, a wish that was rarely granted.[v] It was very easy to enact these laws, as the small island was easily secured. Although these men were basically prisoners to their craft, they continued to work and create exquisite pieces of glass. In addition, the Maggior Consiglio granted many special privileges to glassmakers and their families. For example, the daughters of glassmakers were permitted to marry the sons of Venetian nobles. The nobles’ sons could keep their titles and their children would retain the family’s nobility.[vi] Glassmakers could also exhibit their masterpieces in Venetian pageants. Some men did manage to escape Murano and spread their glassmaking secrets across much of Europe. As the failure of the Venetian economy progressed in the eighteenth century, the Maggior Consiglio sent assassins to kill escaped members of the glassmaking guild. This heinous measure was an act to ensure the monopoly of Muranese glass in Europe.

The style of the early period of Murano glass was once which strove for refinement and clarity. Glass produced with this intention was known as “cristallo.” The invention of the cristallo technique is attributed to Angelo Barovier in the fifteenth century.[vii] The Barovier family has been linked to Venetian glassmaking for hundreds of years. Cristallo glassmaking required an increased skill level to reach the perfection of creating clear glass. The technique requires the burning of the barilla plant, a marine plant, to create ash. This ash created a clear glass that resembles rock crystal.[viii] Once the perfect chemical composition was created, cristallo glass was blown into elaborate shapes. According to Phoebe Phillips, cristallo is “easily worked when hot, and gives a light and fragile appearance.”[ix] Designs in cristallo were very simple and delicate. More elaborate techniques used in early glassmaking were abandoned to create the pure, clear glass. Glass of such high technical caliber was created for the elite class. It became a popular art for collections of nobility and high classes across all of Europe.[x] Some cristallo works were decorated with colored glass, usually of blue, green, and purple hues.[xi] Some were also gilded and enameled. Themes of decoration around the fifteenth century were based on late medieval Gothic themes and classic antiquity. One example entitled Cristallo Goblet with Enameled and Gilt Decoration features winged putti on garlands, scrollwork, and shields. More subtle works of cristallo glass feature no decoration at all. Rather, these glasswares are crafted into elaborate forms. A Venetian wineglass exhibits this concept. Dated from the sixteenth century, the glass is pure cristallo glass.[xii] It is not colored or gilded at all. However, it is of a very complex form. Such simple examples of glassware reflect the fragility and simplicity of clear, crystal glass.

Unlike the purity of cristallo, multi-colored glass did exist during fifteenth century. However, it was not used in the same way cristallo. Glass known as millefiori, literally meaning thousands of flowers, was highly colored and decorative. It was made by combining slices of colored rods of glass and creating a pattern resembling flowers. Millefiori was used in mosaics for buildings, as decoration. Comparatively, cristallo glass was used to create functional wares, such as glasses and containers.

The other type of glass produced in Murano during the fifteenth century was lattimo. Lattimo is glass that is opaque, also known as milk glass.[xiii] It is made by adding lead, lime, or tin lime to the composition. Lattimo objects have simple decorations and are a milky white color. The technique was meant to imitate porcelain from China. Like cristallo glass, lattimo was decorated with enamels and gold. Decorations also include scrollwork and other images in blue hues, which imitate Chinese porcelain. One example dated from 1500 shows the head of a young man and a ribbon with the Italian and Latin words that mean “I am your servent.”[xiv] The outside of the lattimo bowl is highly decorated with gold and blue enamel.

Over time, techniques and styles in glass art changed drastically. One of the most prominent figures in modern glassware in the early twentieth century is Carlo Scarpa. Carlo Scarpa was born on June 2, 1906 in Venice.[xv] After eleven years in Vicenza, he returned to Venice as a teenager after the death of his mother. Scarpa attended the Reale Academia di Belle Arti (School of Fine Arts) for architectural drawing. He received his diploma in 1926 as a professor of Architectural Drawing, while working with the architect Vincenzo Rinaldo.[xvi] Scarpa became heavily involved in teaching. He began his life-long commitment to scholarly efforts at the Scuola Superiore di Architettura in Venice.[xvii] Scarpa continued to teach here until 1976, two years before his death. Carlo Scarpa is also tied to the Venice Biennale and the installations of its exhibits.[xviii] He began his collaboration with the international contemporary art exhibition in 1948 with the design of the Paul Klee exhibition, the Art Book Pavilion in 1950, and the Italy Pavilion in 1952.

Although Scarpa left a mark in the glass arts, the majority of his career was spent focused on architecture. Scarpa’s architecture was based on a transformation of spaces with the use of original materials. Like with glass, Scarpa experimented with materials and their relationship with light and color. For example, his work at the Gipsoteca Canoviana in Treviso, the National Gallery of Sicily at Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo, and in the restoration and exhibit design of Castelvechhio in Verona are described “While in Giposeteca, light is the material with which Scarpa works, in Palermo, and above all in Verona, the focus of experience is the action of time.”[xix] Scarpa’s architectural works are innovative in concept and design. It is also noted that Scarpa was very inspired by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his use of organic forms in architecture. He also incorporated his knowledge of the decorative arts, derived from his experiences in glass, into his architectural designs.

Carlo Scarpa worked for twenty years in the glass industry. In 1927, Scarpa was named director at the Vetri Soffiati Muranesi Cappellin Venini & Company glass factory. During this time, he was able to learn about experiments with glass.[xx] These experimentations can be attributed to Scarpa’s developing style as a glass artist.  The glass factory was originally founded in 1921 by Paolo Venini and Giacomo Cappellin. Cappellin was a Venetian antique glass dealer who owned an antique shop in Milan. Venini was a Milanese lawyer who had a long-standing family history in glassmaking.[xxi] The pair founded Vetri Soffiati Muranesi Cappellin Venini & Company to manufacture decorative glass objects on the island of Murano. Cappellin and Venini worked with Andrea Rioda as their master glassblower. In 1925, Cappellin dropped out of the partnership to create his own business with Francesco Zecchin and sculptor Napoleone Martinuzzi.[xxii] At this time, Venini renamed the company to V.S.M. Venini & Company. It was not until 1932 that Scarpa began to design his own masterpieces in glass while collaborating with Venini & Company. In 1934, he became the artistic director of the factory until 1946.

The collaboration between Scarpa and Venini, in what has been referred to as the “Grand Decade”, is when a distinctive modern style in glass was created.[xxiii] Together, Scarpa and Venini sought to bring an aesthetic renewal to glassmaking. Venini transformed the traditional style of Venetian glassblowing, while Scarpa played with design elements. According to Anna Venini, the daughter of Paolo Venini, the relationship between Scarpa and her father was strictly professional. The pair did not have a friendship outside of their work. However, while collaborating in the studio they achieved great pieces of glass art.

One such example of Scarpa’s new methods in glass can be seen in his sommerso works. Sommerso glass incorporates small or large particles with thick pieces of glass.[xxiv] Blown pieces of glass are encased in a singular or multiple layers of glass. This effect is created by dipping glasswares into molten glass of various colors. The results are very bright pieces with intricate details featuring metallic elements or bubbles. Earlier sommerso glasswares feature the use of gold leaf or silver leaf particles as surface decoration. Scarpa reinvents sommerso by including the metallic elements inside of the glass. He also includes color to maintain the bright effect of traditional sommerso.

In 1940, Scarpa created a series of murrine plates and bowls inspired by Venini’s earlier wares in the same technique. Murrino is one of the oldest decorative techniques in glassmaking history. Its origins date back to 200 B.C. in the Greek city-state of Alexandria in the form of mosaics. The technique was revived in Murano in the 1870’s. Murrino pieces combine rods of colored glass in various patterns. Then, the rods are melted to form a single cone that is sliced into small discs and arranged to form a pattern, which is melted together.[xxv] Lastly, the glass is blown into its final shape. The glass art in this series features bright red pieces that are intricately decorated with a web-like pattern in black glass. Scarpa pulls from Venini’s example of murrino that show texture through the emphasis of color and transparency in the glass.[xxvi] Scarpa’s addition of small black details that contrast with the bright red give dimension and texture to the vessel. It creates an optical illusion that draws ones eye towards the center, darkest part of the bowl.

Carlo Scarpa also experimented with the ancient technique of lattimo. Lattimo had its Golden Age at the Venini & Company factory in 1930s, as it became a major collection created by Venini. Scarpa created his designs using lattimo glass as a decorative element for glasswares. His creations encase lattimo glass in one or more layers of colored or transparent glass. The results can be vivid and colorful or simple and elegant. Some examples incorporate the metallic flakes also used in sommerso works. In Scarpa’s lattimo vessel, he creates a spiral band of pure white glass that spins around the entire object. Rather than designing a work make completely of lattimo, Scarpa transform its use to become a decorative element in the work. However, Scarpa does create semi-pure lattimo works. One example is of especially high technical skill. This vessel is in the shape of a perfect circle. The milky-white color is typical for lattimo designs. However, Scarpa’s model includes silver foil spirals around the vase. He incorporates elements of sommerso into his beautiful lattimo glass.

The final method that Scarpa used in his glass designs is called filigrana, or canna filigrana. Canna means a cane of circular glass that can be of a single or multiple colors, transparent, or opaque. Filigrana, or filigree, is a term to describe transparent glass with opaque or colorful threads or ribbon decoration.[xxvii] Two styles of filigrana are reticello and retortoli. Reticulated glass is a decorative style that uses a web design to form a mesh effect. It is created using a “network of glass threads, etchings, cutting; or glass that is blown into a metal mesh frame.”[xxviii] Ritortoli is filigree that is twisted into spiral-like forms as decorations. Carlo Scarpa’s use of filigrana is very precise. He employs the canna technique with reticello designs. In these vessels, Scarpa experiments with color greatly. He chooses bright colors as the base of each glassware and uses very thin pieces of lattimo glass for the reticello.

While working with the Venini and Company factory, Carlo Scarpa experimented with glassmaking techniques. Although he did not actually blow any of his own glass, his unique designs are some of the most renowned pieces of glass art in history. Scarpa’s unconventional use of tradition methods in sommerso, murrino, lattimo, and filigrana techniques have yielded especially beautiful works of glass.


















[i] Pickvet, Mark. The Encyclopedia of Glass. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001.

[ii] Phillips, Phoebe. The Encyclopedia of Glass. New York: Crown Publishers, 1981.

[iii] Barr, Sheldon. Venetian Glass: Confections in Glass, 1855-1914. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998.

[iv] Phillips, 61

[v] Phillips, 61

[vi] Barr, 12

[vii] Pickvet, 59

[viii] Pickvet, 59

[ix] Phillips, 61

[x] Mentasti, Rosa Barovier. Glass Throughout Time: History and Technology of Glassmaking from the Ancient World to the Present. Milan: Skira, 2003.

[xi] Charleston, R. J., and Joan E. Fisher. Masterpieces of Glass: A World History from the Corning Museum of Glass. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1980.

[xii] Charleston, 92

[xiii] Mestasti, 254

[xiv] Charleston, 87

[xv] Dal Co, Francesco. “Carlo Scarpa; Notes for a Critical Biography.” Fine-Arts Journals 70, no. 3 (2006): 6-19.

[xvi] Dal Co, 6

[xvii] Mentasti, 275

[xviii] Mestasti, 275

[xix] Dal Co, 6

[xx] Dal Co, 6

[xxi] “Venini: History.” Venini . (accessed December 4, 2011).

[xxii] Pickvet, 219

[xxiii] Venini, Anna. “Elective Affinity-Carlo Scarpa and Paolo Venini and the Grand Decade: 1932-1942 .” Glass Quarterly 97 (2004): 50-54.

[xxiv] Pickvet, 196

[xxv] “Venini: Working Techniques.” Venini. (accessed December 4, 2011).

[xxvi] Venini, 53

[xxvii] “Venini: Working Techniques”

[xxviii] Pickvet, 179

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Adriana Christesen on Dec 5th 2011

Annotated Bibliography:

Barovier Mentasti, Rosa. Exquisite glass ornaments: the nineteenth-century Murano glass            revival in the de Boos-Smith collection. Venice: Marsilio, 2010.


Barovier’s work reviews the history of Murano glassmaking and its revival in the 1800s. The author also explores specific techniques used for glass objects during the time. Lastly, the work discusses buyers for such wares.


de Winter, Patrick M.. “Recent Accessions of Italian Renaissance Decorative Arts, Part II.” The            Bulletin of The Cleveland Museum of Art 73 (1986): 142-182.   (accessed October 2, 2011).


This article focuses on Murano glass during the Italian Renaissance. De Winter describes the methods used to create glassworks of that era. He also describes the museum’s collection of glasswork.


Epstein, S.R. “Craft Guilds, Apprenticeship, and Technological Change in Preindustrial Europe.”            The Journal of Economic History 58 (1998): 684-713.   (accessed October 2, 2011).


Epstein’s article discusses the successes and failures of Venetian glassmaking guilds. The work compares these guilds with others from various parts of Europe and in many different skilled crafts.


Frantz, Susanne K., and Matthew Kangas. Viva vetro! = Glass alive! : Venice and America.            Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum Of Art, 2007.


This book reviews Venice’s dominance in the creation of glassworks since the 1500s. It connects the influences and traditions of Murano glass with American artists in the mid-1900s. The work discusses American artists who work in the Venetian tradition, as well as Venetian artists working in America.


Gable, Carl L.. Murano magic: complete guide to Venetian glass, its history and artists.            Lancaster, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2004.


This text chronicles the history of the making of Murano glass over the past 700 years. Gable focuses on the artists whose careers have made an impact in glassmaking from the past and present.


Hills, Paul. Venetian colour: marble, mosaic, painting and glass, 1250-1550. New Haven: Yale            University Press, 1999.


Hills’ extremely specific study explores the distinctive Venetian color palette in various art forms, ranging from marble, mosaic, textiles, painting, and glass during the Renaissance. The chapter entitled “Transparency, Lucidezza and the Colours of Glass” investigates Venetian cristallo glass vessels, as well as the addition of colored pigments.


Lanaro, Paola. At the centre of the old world: trade and manufacturing in Venice and the            Venetian mainland, 1400-1800. Toronto: Centre For Reformation And Renaissance Studies,            2006.


In the article “Murano Glass, Continuity and Transformation”, Lanaro discusses the glassmaking guilds of Murano and their techniques. In addition, he explores the gender roles of men and women in the field and important individuals. Finally, the article discusses governmental regulations and trade agreements in the glass industry during 1800s.


Liefkes, Reino. “Antonio Salviati and the Nineteenth-Century Renaissance of Venetian Glass.”            The Burlington Magazine, May 1994. URL: (accessed            October 2, 2011).


Liefkes’ article features information about a blown glass dish acquired by the Hauge. The work was created in the late 1800s by Antonio Salviati. The articles briefly recounts Salviati’s life and career as a glassmaker and gives significant detail about the 19th century dish.


McNab, Jessie. “European Sculpture and Decorative Arts .” Museum of Metropolitan Art            Bulletin, Summer 2001. (accessed October 2, 2011).


This article discusses various art objects that are in possession of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The author compares works of Venetian glass from Murano to similar objects from the Netherlands and Germany. McNab explains differences in techniques and aesthetics in glasswork in each location.


Sciama, Lidia D.. “Genere, economia, simbolismo nella lavorazione, usi e scambi delle perle Da            Murano all’Africa e al Sarawak.” La Ricerca Folklorica 34 (1996): 11-24.   (accessed October 2, 2011).


This Italian article analyzes the trading of Venetian glass beads to Africa and the New World. Sciama claims the goods exchanged through these early long-distance trade routes were signifiers of social and cultural classification.


“Search the Collections.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Home.   (accessed            October 2, 2011).


This online source provides many images of glass objects in various styles. They are each assigned a title, date, and artist (if known).




Thoreau, Henry, and Silvio Fuso. Murano: behind the glass. New York: Damiani, 2008.


Murano: Behind the Glass is a photographic study of the contemporary glassmakers in Murano. These workers continue to use ancient techniques that have been passed down for centuries. This book demonstrates the lasting effects of early glassmaking through the use of vibrant photographs.


Toso, Gianfrasco.

Murano: A history of glass. Reprint. ed. Venice: Arsenale Editrice, 2002.


Toso’s work studies the origins of glassmaking in Egypt and Rome. He then traces these influences to the rise of glasswork in Venice. The work also covers information on the lives of glassmakers, cristallo, and Murano glass in the modern day.


Turner, Guy. “Allume Catina” and the Aesthetics of Venetian “Cristallo.” Journal of Design            History 12 (1999): 111-122. (accessed October 2,            2011).


This article focuses on the “cristallo” glass technique in Venice during the mid-1400s. Turner discusses the invention of cristallo and its cultural and social relationship in Venice at the time. The article also explores the various treaties in cristallo glassmaking.


Valeri, Anna Moore. “Venetian beakers with enamel decoration and Tuscan mold-blown vessels            in an early 16th-century wall painting in Florence.” Journal of Glass Studies 39 (1997):            200-206.              3a43abfc5d0c909b19b0d42f868722b7750a33891c86b7a7b9ab1dfe&fmt=C Valeri, A.            M. Venetian beakers with enamel decoration and Tuscan mold-blown vessels in an early            16th-century wall painting in Florence. Journal of Glass Studies v. 39 (1997) p. 200-6            (accessed October 2, 2011).


Valeri’s journal article analyzes a fresco painting entitled “The Last Supper” by Francesco di Cristoforo from 1514. Two enamel vessels are depicted in the work, which is located in Florence. The author investigates the origin of these blown vessels from Venetian glassblowers of the late 15th and early 16th century.


W.M.M. “A Venetian Enamel Ewer.” The Bulletin of The Cleveland Museum of Art 11 (1924):            3-5. (accessed October 2, 2011).


This short article analyzes an enamel ewer acquired by The Cleveland Museum of Art. The author explains how the work was created by glassmakers on Murano.

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Adriana Christesen on Sep 14th 2011

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