Mandruzzato goes retro with Murano glass
To truly appreciate the success story on an industrial scale that is Venetian glassmaking, you need to visit Murano. The island is a miniature version of Venice – a group of seven islets separated by canals, linked by bridges and hemmed by Venetian-style architecture. It has its fair share of sights, including the magnificent church of San Pietro Martire with works by Giovanni Bellini, Palma the Younger and Paolo Veronese, but has been on the world map chiefly as the centre of Venetian glassmaking since 1291.
True to form, Murano is filled with glassware shops and glassmaking workshops, some of which will let you watch master glassmakers blow glass into magnificent shapes with precision and ease. As a fan of modernist art glass, I did my due diligence in terms of research to discover Alessandro Mandruzzato. The third-generation owner of the Mandruzzato workshop founded in 1956, Alessandro is renowned for his expertly hand-crafted statement pieces which employ the Sommerso technique.
First developed in Murano by Antonio da Ros in the late 1930s, perfected by the Venini in the 1940s and made truly famous by the Seguso during the 1950s, Sommerso is now the mainstay of Venetian glassmaking. The word in Italian means “submerged” and the technique is used to create multiple layers of glass inside a single object, giving the illusion of immersed colours that lay on top of each other without mixing. The effect is achieved by uniting different layers of coloured glass through extreme heat.
The technique is instantly recognisable by an outer layer of colourless glass and thick layers of coloured glass inside it, as if a big drop of colour had been captured inside the mass of transparent glass. The look and feel of Sommerso art glass is decidedly retro and hence its appeal to me as a collector of all things mid-century. Once in Murano, I made by way to the Mandruzzato showroom on the island’s Fondamenta Andrea Navagero where I was lucky enough to run into Alessandro Mandruzzato himself.
After much rummaging in Alessandro’s workshop where he invited me, I settled on an exquisite colour-cased vase. The minimalist vase has a deep blue interior, cased in yellow within clear glass. Clean, geometrical lines contrasted with the organic flow of colour create a striking design with the colour drop perfectly suspended in clear, mouth-blown glass. The piece displays beautifully from every angle. To really make my day, Alessandro signed the bottom of my vase with an engraving pen!