Napoleone Martinuzzi’s ten-handled Pulegoso vase, made at the Venini Glassworks where he served as artistic director from 1925 to 1932, is probably the most recognizable and iconic object made on the island of Murano in the 20th century. The fact that only four other examples are known makes its presentation here even more significant. 

First exhibited at the Biennale of 1928, this vase challanged the idea of what Murano glass could be. Primarily known for its lightness and transparency 

Both modern and ancient, sober and extravagant, this vase set the tone for Italian Novocento. 

Murano glass was now liberated from its own historical limitations and could be heavy, opaque, sculptural and inventive, while at the same time possess the refined power of classical antiquity. Both modern and ancient, sober and extravagant, this vase set the tone for Italian Novocento of the 1920s and 1930s, and was roundly celebrated by critics of the day.

The present lot illustrated on the cover of the famed Sotheby's auction of Venetian Glass

Of the five known examples of this vase two are in private ownership—one is in an important Swiss collection and the other is in the Olnick Spanu collection, New York. Two examples reside in permanent museum collections—one in the Vittoriale Museum near Lake Garda, Italy which was given by Martinuzzi to the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, and the other was recently bequeathed to the Ca’ Pesaro Museum in Venice by the renowned collectors Francesco and Chiara Carraro. The fifth example, presented here, first came to public attention in 1990 when it was offered at the historic Sotheby’s sale of Murano glass in Geneva, Switzerland. Since that time it has resided in an important private collection in Monte Carlo.

Works in Pulegoso glass exhibited at the IV Triennale di Monza, 1930

Napoleone Martinuzzi

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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Auction Results Napoleone Martinuzzi