31 Mar An architect in Murano glass
A treasure trove of Murano glass. One of the largest books in my design library it documents the relatively short life of the MVM Capellin Glassworks and explains the role that the young Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa played in developing its distinctive aesthetic. Scarpa was born in 1906 and died in 1978, and in the 1920s he was employed to work on the renovation of MVM’s head office, the Gothic Palazzo da Mula. He had a good eye and was not afraid to try something different and it wasn’t long before he got involved in other artistic areas of the business, even the creation of designs for MVM glass. The company struggled financially from its inception in 1925 and the economic crash of 1929 proved overwhelmingly difficult and it closed, having gone bankrupt, in 1932. During these years however its status as a highly influential glassmaking company was never in doubt. The technical expertise of the glass workers and the constant evolution of new designs, which used increasingly difficult techniques, amazed and delighted a worldwide audience. MVM exhibited Murano glass internationally and though at the time Scarpa himself only achieved fame for his design of MVM’s exhibition stands his role in glass design is now finally revealed and lauded in this book. It has taken the editors years of painstaking work to collect documents and evidence to establish Scarpa’s creative immersion in the design of the glass artefacts and the care and attention in bringing so many beautiful images together shines from page to page. This is a wonderful book, a superb resource for design historians, architects, interior designers and glass-makers. I particularly enjoyed the section on stained glass panels because for me they are an under-rated and under-used material for interiors. It seems Scarpa used electric light to illuminate his glass panels, an effect that transformed a space:
‘At this Barcelona exhibition, the Cappellin firm won a prize for a luminous ceiling which was not stained glass … but the demonstration of the application of its glass sheets in an illumination system…‘
The quality of the pieces to come out of the MVM company under the watchful eye of Giacomo Cappellin was so great that museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York purchased items for their collections. Cappellin envisaged a world market for MVM’s beautiful glass, he sought publicity at every opportunity and eventually, after contributing to trade exhibitions across America he had the buyers from department stores putting in orders for thousands of pieces. Eventually Cappellin Glassware Inc set up a showroom in New York.
The story of the business is fascinating and the book is illustrated with photographs, drawings and advertisements. Bonwit Teller, a store on New York’s Fifth Avenue put an advert in the NY Times which states: ‘No other glassmaker in the world creates pieces like those which come from Cappellin, hailed by connoisseurs as the greatest master in all Italy.‘
Clockwise from top left: Vase in laHmo glass with coral-red feniciodecoraTon and applied gold leaf, 1928-29; Vase in coral-red and gold pasta vitrea and vase in turquoise and gold pasta vitrea, 1929-31; Vase in red pasta vitrea and small perfume boAle in yellow pasta vitrea, 1929-30; Vases in black glass with applied silver leaf and finishings in coral-red pasta vitrea, c.1930.
This book details the story of the company but it also acts as a product catalogue. Glass pieces are itemised, photographed and documented, each one having its own history. Sculptural figurines are conceived with a touch of humour and I’m reminded of contemporary designs by Jaime Hayon for the Spanish porcelain company Lladró; no doubt Hayon will have studied the decorative style and aesthetic demonstrated by MVM and other glass manufacturers of the time.
The M.V.M Cappellin Glassworks and the Young Carlo Scarpa, edited by Marino Barovier and Carla Sonego. ISBN 978-88-572-3925-5. Available via Amazon £65.00.
Images supplied by Fouchard Filippi Communications. Thanks to Fouchard Filippi Communications for sending me a copy of the book to review. Top image: Book cover , © Skira Editore 2019.