Paolo Venini

Influencing the History of Murano Glass

To many, this vase embodies the essence of Venini’s post-war production — complex technique in a simple form. Paolo Venini was a man in possession of a rare genius; he understood the minds of artists and what people wanted. As a lawyer from Milan, he started a modern design business in Murano — the most exquisitely traditional and professionally xenophobic place in Italy — and made it one of the greatest art and design firms in history. His instincts seemed to never fail him, and his company changed the direction of Murano glass history. As a designer he proved to be as good as the best in the world, and he worked with a subtlety and grace that was awe-inspiring. The Mosaico Tessuto pieces were expensive and difficult to make; Gio Ponti praised them in the pages of Domus (April 1955). Paolo understood his public, the market, the times in which he lived, and still managed to make and promote exquisite objects-as-art. When he died in 1959, the world lost a particular and significant talent. But Paolo’s legacy is still alive — his designs have a surprising directness. One looks at them and wonders how anyone could make something so beautiful, so modern, such a tight encapsulation of human object-making. This is especially true of the Mosaico Tessuti— complex technique in a simple form. Like a seashell, a leaf, or a feather, it is an irreducible object of beauty which speaks for itself.

This Mosaico Tessuto—a complex technique in a simple form—is an irreducible object of beauty.

Paolo Venini 1895–1959

Paolo Venini was born in Cusano, Italy on January 12, 1895 to a middle class Lombard family. As a young man he studied law in Milan. During the first war he was stationed near Venice where he became fascinated with the glass mosaics and stained glass of St. Mark’s cathedral. After the war he began a law practice but soon came under the influence of Venetian art and antiquities dealer Giacomo Cappellin who convinced the young Venini to join him as a business partner in a new Murano glass enterprise in 1921. Since then it has become almost impossible to discuss the life of Paolo Venini as separate from his company—all the available biographical material about him lacks personal detail and inevitably lists towards the celebrated history of the company. Venini’s biography is, therefore, the story of a man whose literal personality has been subsumed by his professional life and persona.

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