Artisti Barovier was founded in 1884 using the former furnaces of Salviati, following Antonio Salviati’s decision to cease their own production of glassworks. As part of the agreement to take over the furnaces it was agreed that the new Artisti Barovier would reserve part of their production for Salviati, so that the latter could continue retailing a variety of new designs under its own name. In the highly competitive context of Murano, Artisti Barovier quickly distinguished themselves for their refined designs based on 19th Century traditional glass making, as well as their new interpretations of the glass murrina. Central here were the roles of Vittorio Zecchin and Teodoro Wolf Ferrari, whose compelling glass panels in coloured murrine, produced with the aid of Artisti Barovier, were to play a large influence in the direction of the firm. Examples such as ‘Il Barbaro’, the flower basket, and the ‘Ritratto di Donna’, now in the permanent collection of the Glass Museum in Murano and dated as early as 1914, showed a new interpretation of how glass murrina could be used to compose not only decorative patterns but a whole figurative composition, far more complex than anything achieved or attempted before. Artisti Barovier fully comprehended the immense potential of elevating the use of this ancient technique and the extensive experiments the furnace undertook in this regard were unprecedented.
The execution of a vase such as the present lot required firstly the production of a vast series of murrine and glass canes, according to the intended design. These were achieved through the execution of elongated glass canes with a pre-designed section, later fragmented into small coloured tassels. ‘Bosco di Betulle’ presents two to three toned murrine for the branches, yellow murrine with a touch of blue for the sunset sky, and far more complex murrine for the different flowers, bushes and the multicoloured undergrowth. The variety of glass elements forming the composition were arranged on a panel following a rigorous process; once fused together in this conformation the murrine were subsequently coiled alongside the top edge of the picture, the extremity fusing with clear glass. The individual glass elements were then fused together to form a sealed, seamless volume, supported from the inside by a thin layer of lattimo glass, then blown to the desired shape.
Part of the difficulty in executing a complex figurative scene using glass murrine was foreseeing how the composition would endure all the necessary alterations through the process without losing the decorative scheme. The Barovier excelled at the technique and between 1914 and 1923 created various examples with vivid coloured murrine vessels depicting flowers, vine with pink grapes, animals, geometric designs and more, some based on models by Vittorio Zecchin, others of Artisti Barovier’s own conception. A common thread between these and Vittorio Zecchin were strong stylistic similitudes with Secessionist art but it would be inaccurate to solely attribute these similarities to an unilateral influence of the artistic group to the Muranese spirit; indeed if the Muranese were influenced by the artistic group presentation at the Biennale of 1910, Vittorio Zecchin and Teodoro Wolf Ferrari had, in their turn, also exhibited in Munich in 1913, sharing their own glass art amongst the sphere of international art exhibitions.