Important Italian Glass  24 January 2019

Tomaso Buzzi at Venini

After the sudden departure of Napoleone Martinuzzi from Venini in 1932, the architect Tomaso Buzzi, a longtime friend and associate of Paolo Venini, stepped in on short notice to fill the position of artistic director. Also hired on a freelance basis was the young architect Carlo Scarpa whose services as a designer were now available after the recent collapse of MVM Cappellin. 

Buzzi was immediately presented with a daunting task—to design an entirely new line of glass to be presented by Venini at the Triennali of Milano in 1933. Buzzi responded with a highly inventive and beautifully cohesive body of work, a vast array of bowls and vases inspired by Surrealism and ancient Etruscan Askoi vessels. These pieces were executed in precious experimental materials and many included industrial and zoomorphic shapes and imagery. Only a few of these highly sculptural objects were produced by Venini and are therefore coveted by collectors, museums and historians. 

Based on this collection Buzzi designed a number of very elegant vases inspired by Chinese Ceramics in Laugna, Alba, Alga and Lattimo Argento glass. A few charming sculptures of birds were also produced during this period in both Mezza Filigrana and Lattimo glass. By 1934, Buzzi had departed and Carlo Scarpa now became full time artistic director. And while Tomaso Buzzi’s tenure at Venini was brief, his work had a lasting impact on the company and the trajectory of Murano glass in general.

Tomaso Buzzi 1900–1981

Born in Sondrio in 1900, Tomaso Buzzi became interested in art, design and craftsmanship at an early age. He studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano, and soon after graduation began his career designing interiors, creating theatrical stage sets and costumes, and doing graphic design for books and magazines. In 1927, he was one of the original founders of the influential Il Labirinto group along with Paolo Venini, Gio Ponti, Pietro Chiesa, Carla Visconti di Modrone, Emilio Lancia, and others. The aim of Il Labirinto was to “promote modern design for the home”. In 1932 he became art director at Venini, and though his tenure only lasted until 1934, his influence had a lasting impact on the company. From 1930 to 1950 he taught architecture in Milan, and also devoted himself to artistic and functional design, working with lighting, furniture, silver, ceramics and iron. In the 1950s, Buzzi’s tastes moved away from Modernism and back towards Neo-Classicism, his first aesthetic love. By the end of the 1950s he dedicated himself almost entirely to painting, and only occasionally took on private commissions. He died in Rapallo, Genoa, in 1981.

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