An Icon of Novecento Design
When the sculptor Napoleone Martinuzzi developed Pulegoso glass at Venini in 1928 it expanded the notion of what Murano glass could be. Today we take for granted the fact that Murano glass can be transparent or opaque, thin walled or massively thick, sculptural and at the same time utilitarian, but this was not always the case.
Martinuzzi's Pulegoso glass technique expanded the notion of what Murano glass could be.
Before Martinuzzi’s tenure as Artistic Director of Venini, Murano glass was primarily known for its lightness and transparency. In fact, Venini had become famous for Vittorio Zecchin’s lightweight, transparent Soffiato glass vessels which were a modernist reinterpretation of Venetian masterworks from the 16th century. With Pulegoso glass, Martinuzzi was able to satisfy his need as a sculptor for mass, density and solidity, while at the same time take advantage of the inherent optical effects created by the opacity of this new glass. These qualities made Pulegoso an excellent material to be used for lighting designs; lamps, appliqués, and chandeliers made of Pulegoso glass became highly fashionable at a time when the young Venini company sorely needed capital.
Martinuzzi's rare Pulegoso vases are icons of pre-war Italian art and design.
The vases designed by Martinuzzi in Pulegoso glass were never produced in large numbers. A small group of pieces were made for the Biennale di Venezia in 1928, and for the 4th Triennale di Monza in 1930. Often large-scale, these vases and bowls were based on shapes from classical antiquity. Although these pieces appear in Venini’s production catalogs of the period, very few are known to exist today. They were, perhaps, produced as splendid examples of the superior design and craftsmanship possible at Venini.
The four handled Pulegoso vase presented here speaks to all of this—its form is based on well-known Roman models, while the oversized scale and the bubbly, diffuse luminosity of its emerald color make it a perfect example of the Italian Novecento style. Today these rare Martinuzzi Pulegoso vases are considered icons of pre-war Italian art and design.