Modernist 20th Century /22 May 2005


Napoleone Martinuzzi

sconces, set of four
Italy, c. 1928
glass, brass
18 w × 7½ d × 18 h in (46 × 19 × 46 cm)

As the artistic director of Venini, sculptor Napoleone Martinuzzi made radical changes to the product line. He infused traditional forms once defined by lines and profiles with volume and mass. The resulting sculptural glass works, like these sconces, were finely crafted combinations of traditional Venini style and modern design. Literature: Venini Catalogue Raisonne 1921-1986, Venini Diaz de Santillana, pg. 250

estimate: $15,000–20,000
result: $21,600

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Napoleone Martinuzzi 1892–1977

Born on Murano in 1892, Napoleone Martinuzzi was the son of an accomplished glass blower. He attended the Belle Arti in Venice and was part of the Ca’ Pezzaro Secessionist group where, in 1908, he began to exhibit his sculptures. Over the next decade Martinuzzi exhibited widely in Europe, eventually becoming one of Italy’s most influential Novecento sculptors.  

In 1921 he became Director of the Murano Museum and in 1925, the Artistic Director at Venini. Martinuzzi’s bold use of experimental, semi-opaque glass (Pulegoso, Lattimo, Calcedonio) brought a new sculptural materialism to Murano. His use of large-scale forms from classical antiquity executed in vibrant colors set a new standard for Murano glass design. 

In 1932 Martinuzzi left Venini to found his own firm, Zecchin-Martinuzzi. While the company only lasted for a few years, its highly refined production had a profound influence on Murano glass for decades to come. Between 1937 and 1947 Martinuzzi once again dedicated himself to sculpture. During the post-war period he returned to glass design and did notable works for several companies including Alberto Seguso’s Arte Vetro, Vetreria Cenedese, Alfredo Barbini and Pauly & C. 

But the simple facts of Martinuzzi’s life fail to capture the lasting power of his work—his name alone evokes images of remote elegance and archetypal glory. A lasting tribute to this haute-grandeur can still be seen at the Vittoriale—poet Gabriele D’Annunzio’s lavish home and mausoleum where many of Martinuzzi’s formidable sculptures and monumental glass vessels still reside

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