We begin with a “Pennellate” bowl by Carlo Scarpa, designed for Venini, c. 1940. Though better known in some quarters for his Mid-Century Modern architecture, Scarpa was heavily influenced by the natural world, having more in common with the aesthetic of Frank Lloyd Wright than Mies van der Rohe. Similarly, in this piece, he lets natural forces—gravity, heat, rotation—”paint” his form, at once diffusing the colors he has selected and stretching them horizontally.

Here, Scarpa appears to have turned to the natural colors of decay for his inspiration. Was he taken with rust? The hue of autumn leaves? Spent thistles? We’ll probably never know, but one thing is for certain—Scarpa created this piece in 1935 with the help of gold leaf.

While Scarpa is known for his Murano period, the Barovier name is practically synonymous with Murano itself. The family of Ercole Barovier, whose Barovier & Toso factory produced this amber weaved vase in 1957, has been blowing glass on Murano since at least the 15th century. Like Scarpa, Barovier appears to be taking his cue in this piece from the look and feel of organic materials, which was an important attribute of much mid-20th-century design.

Fulvio Bianconi was another designer-in-residence at Venini, where he produced this “color bands” piece some time in or around 1953. Though the geometric presentation of the colors in this vase is quite different from Scarpa’s “Pennellate” bowl, the playfulness and intensity of the colors gives them a classically Mid-Century Murano appearance.

This cylindrical shape, also by Fulvio Bianconi, is composed of vertical rather than horizontal bands, in this case of blackish-brown and dark-red, resembling a cartoon-gangster’s suit rather than anything one might expect to commonly find in nature. When it was made, this piece had a stopper, but that detail is missing here.

Another prominent Murano glass factory was—and is—Seguso Vetri d'Arte. Artist Flavio Poli was the firm’s director when he created this two-color “sommerso” vase in 1950. Unlike the hues favored by Bianconi, which could be hot and earthy, the colors in this “Valva” vase are cool and ethereal.

Which is not to say that all Murano colors must be one or the other. Consider this last piece, attributed to Barovier & Toso and thought to be from the mid-20th century, whose green base and red dots appear almost radioactive. That this piece was born from the same furnaces as Ercole Barovier’s amber weaved vase shows the aesthetic range of the famous factory, as well as the lengths the firm and its artisans were prepared to go to push the limits of color.

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