Paolo Venini

Cusano, Milan 1895 — Venice 1959

A true protagonist of Novecento design, Paolo Venini started out as a businessman and lawyer but fell in love with glasswork after a visit to the antique dealer Cappellin’s shop. Venini is known for his polychrome glass windows of innovative concept for the time in which simply decorated glass panels were melted and inserted in a metal frame to create an undivided surface.

Venini and Cappellin decided to go into business together in Murano in 1921: Venini would be responsible for production, Cappellin would handle sales, and Vittorio Zecchin would be their art director. The synergy between the three gave the new company a promising start as one of the first to emerge from the standstill of 19th century taste into which Murano glass had fallen.

Their first works achieved great popularity at both the 1922 Venice Biennale and the 1st Monza Biennale in 1923. At the 1925 Paris Expo, however, Venini and Cappellin decided to go separate ways. The Milanese entrepreneur went on to set up his own glassworks, Venini & C., together with Francesco Zecchin and Napoleone Martinuzzi. The company rode the crest of the cultural ferment of the time, placing its bets on stylistic research and technical experimentation and proposing new items outside the tradition, such as windows and public and private illumination fixtures. Venini’s style abandoned stereotype and previously produced models, and was influenced by his continuous work with artisans who worked materials other than glass. Between the 1930s and ‘50s, his activities attracted the attention of many of the day’s most original artists, designers, and architects, such as Bianconi, Buzzi, Gio Ponti, Lancia, Scarpa, and Pulitzer. With its incomparable production, Venini & C became the most renowned and innovative of all the Murano glassmakers.