The con Macchie series designed by Fulvio Bianconi represents a high point in post-war art glass design. Inspired by abstract painting, these pieces are a point of departure as they capture a moment in Murano glass history when the utility of a vessel was rendered secondary to its artistic merit alone. Like the paintings of Robert Motherwell, the con Macchie vases feature interlocking monochrome shapes and attain a similar level of visual abstraction. A small number of pieces in the series depict loosely rendered anthropomorphic figures or scenes in a similarly abstract manner. While there are drawings for individual models, each piece in this series was fabricated in a way that makes it unique. Bianconi’s genius for abstract design, along with the superb craftsmanship of Venini’s master blowers, makes this series aesthetically and artistically significant.
A drawing for this model depicting a master glassblower seated on a stool and holding a blow pipe by Fulvio Bianconi from the Venini archives. (Photograph courtesy of Marino Barovier)
Executed circa 1950, the vase represented here is one of the only known examples of this model. The imagery on the vase depicts Murano’s glassblowers at work. Rendered in a reduced, pictographic style, Bianconi’s talent as a caricaturist and cartoonist can be seen here. This vase was exhibited at the Stanze del Vetro exhibition of Bianconi’s work in 2015 at Fondazione Cini in Venice. It is prominently illustrated in the exhibition catalog, and is a fine example of Bianconi’s most influential and important work at Venini.
The present lot featured in the exhibition Fulvio Bianconi at Venini, curated by Marino Barovier and organized by Le Stanze del Vetro, Venice. (Photograph by Fabrizio Veronesi)
Fulvio Bianconi at Venini
Born in Padua in 1915, Fulvio Bianconi initially rose to prominence as an illustrator, graphic designer and caricaturist working for Italy’s top publishing companies during the 1930s. But it is perhaps his post-war collaboration with Paolo Venini which best defines his legacy as an artist.
On a business trip to Murano in 1947, Bianconi met with Paolo Venini who immediately recognized his talent and offered him a position as artistic director, a post which had recently been vacated by the celebrated architect Carlo Scarpa. Engaged on a free-lance basis, Bianconi’s arrangement with Venini was somewhat unusual but seemed to suit his idiosyncratic personality and artistic inclinations.
From the very beginning, Bianconi’s approach at Venini was entirely that of a fine artist, drawing inspiration from modern art, fashion and graphic design. As a cartoonist and caricaturist he was also able to re-envision cultural themes from Italy’s past and express them in a fresh, contemporary way. All of this was in fact encouraged by Venini, who seemed to have an innate understanding of Bianconi’s frenetic style and unique abilities.
From 1947 to 1950, Bianconi designed numerous series of sculptural objects and vessels including the Commedia dell’Art figures, Fazoletto (Handkerchief) vases, Pezzati (Patchwork) and con Macchie (Stained) vessels, all of which have all now become icons of post-war Italian design. Sometimes surreal, often abstract, these series captured the spirit of the times and expressed the essence of La Dolce Vita and the exuberance of post-war Italy. While Murano had been demonstrating an awareness of modern art since the early part of the century, it is only with Bianconi that it found itself on equal footing.
Working with Paolo Venini throughout the 1950s, Bianconi designed unique, modern art objects on a human-scale and for this Murano glass was the perfect vehicle. From this point of view, one could say that Bianconi was instrumental in the liberation of Murano glass from its own cultural and historical definitions.