NEW YORK CITY — Forty-four works in glass by renowned Italian architect Carlo Scarpa (1906–1978) — created during his 15-year collaboration with Venini Glassworks in Venice between 1932 and 1947 — have been donated by Dr David Landau and his wife Marie-Rose Kahane to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they will join the collection of the department of Modern and contemporary art. All of the works were on view recently at the museum in the exhibition “Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa: The Venini Company, 1932–1947.”
Dr Landau commented, “In 1929, the International Exhibition of Contemporary Glass and Rugs opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in its vitrines Italian glass was well represented by major pieces mostly produced at Paolo Venini’s factory in Murano. They were for sale — which sounds really extraordinary now — but the museum did not jump at this unrivalled opportunity. My wife and I are trying to partly remedy that by giving a few Venini pieces to a museum it is impossible not to love.”
The 44 examples of Scarpa’s work in glass in Landau and Kahane’s gift to the museum span the artist’s creative partnership with Venini and include notable works from the major techniques established under Scarpa’s guidance there.
Six works from 1932 to 33 illustrate the a bollicine technique, named for the presence of air bubbles inside the glass produced by injecting potassium nitrate which, when heated, frees miniscule bubbles of carbon dioxide. The distinguishing aspect of bubble glass is its watery appearance, and its forms are generally drawn from East Asian art, made in jade green, as is the case with these works.
Five examples of sommersi glass (1934–36), which are formed by alternating layers of clear colored glass and bubble glass, are included. Scarpa developed this technique and variations of it, such as sommersi glassware that contains gold leaf, which creates a particularly brilliant play of light.
Eleven pieces of corrosi glass from 1936 and 1938 are distinguished by their rough and irregular surface. To make them, each piece is covered with sawdust that has been soaked in hydrofluoric and sulphuric acid, which causes the uneven corroded texture. The surface is then treated to create an iridescent glow. Scarpa created a wide range of delicately shaped pieces, and chose soft shades, such as aquamarine, amethyst and smoke gray, as well as more lively colors such as orange, blue, green and red.
Twelve pieces of mezza filigrana glass (1934–36) revisit the traditional half-filigree technique that was already in use in the Sixteenth Century. Half-filigree glass has an extremely thin and translucent structure and is made of a series of clear glass rods with a piece of lattimo (milky), or colored glass, at the center.
An example of lattimo glass from 1934–36 illustrates the opaque white glass that is obtained by adding a large amount of miniscule crystals to the melting glass; the crystals change the index of refraction, giving the glass its milky appearance.
Two examples of a spirale glass from 1936 feature clear glass, decorated with one or more colored opaque glass ribbon-shaped patterns.
A “cinesi” vase is one of a series of incamiciati (sleeved) glass vases and bowls that have forms drawn from the East Asian porcelain much appreciated by Scarpa.
A murrine trasparenti vase, 1940, from a series of clear glass murine items was exhibited for the first time at the 22nd Venice Biennale in 1940 — a very rare variation of the opaque murine and ground murine glassware exhibited on the same occasion.
Two rigato and tessuto vessels may be considered Scarpa’s original interpretation of rod glass (i.e., filigree glass), consisting of multicolored glass rods.
A variegati bowl from 1942 features variegated glass that includes clear glass items coiled with thin irregular stripes, usually in autumnal colors.
And finally, there arte two battuti vases that conclude the gift and the representation of Scarpa’s time at Venini. Scarpa conceived the finish of battuti (beaten) glassware by the early 1940s in order to obtain a hammered silver effect.
For general information, www.metmuseum.org or 212-650-2010.