THE GLASS ARK AT “LE STANZE DEL VETRO” – SAN GIORGIO MAGGIORE ISLAND
A bright red Dachshund, designed by Napoleone Martinuzzi in the 1930s, welcomes the visitor into a colorful zoo, where some 750 animals, elephants, lions, cats, foxes, parrots, camels, whales, insects, turtles, giraffes, live in their half realistic, half fairy-tale habitats, conceived by scenographers Denise Carnini and Francesca Pedrotti.
Every room of the Glass Ark represents a different environment: deep sea, jungle, desert, wood, orchard, lake, tropical forest, but also…your living-room, with your kitty cat sleeping on the sofa. Every scenography is accompanied by its proper sounds and music.
At home, in Venice, Pierre Rosenberg is still retaining part of his Murano glass animals’ collection, that he started some 30 years ago, with a special passion for cats and whales. While during the Covid months he donated his Parisian collection, including 650 paintings, 3,500 drawings, 40,000 volumes, and 2,000 Murano glass animals to a new museum, the ‘Musée du Grand Siècle’, dedicated to the French 17th century, that will open in 2025 at Saint-Cloud, at the west door of Paris.
Pierre Rosenberg doesn’t define himself a collector, as, he states: ‘a collector devotes all his time to collecting’, while most of his life he was busy working for the Louvre as assistant first, then as a curator, and finally he became the director/president. In the meantime, he published a considerable number of essays on French and Italian painting. His specializations being Nicolas Poussin and the 17th century. Pierre has started to come to Venice on a regular basis slightly more than 30 years ago, as part of his family lives there, and that’s when he began collecting Murano animals, both from famous masters and unknown artisans.
As Giordana Naccari, one of the two curators of the exhibition, states, Pierre collected only pieces that transmitted him an immediate emotion, without paying much attention to signatures, picking up works by world famous designers, such as by Toni Zuccheri’s and Tyra Lundgren’s birds, the aquariums by Toni Barbini, the ‘pulegosi’ (=bubble glasses) by Napoleone Martinuzzi, together with humbler works by several Murano glass furnaces. The collection also showcases works by living artists, such as Cristiano Bianchin, Maria Grazia Rosin, Giorgio Vigna, Marcantonio Brandolini d’Adda, Massimo Nordio, Isabelle Poilprez.
During the XX century Murano glass masters devoted part of their time to experiment the creation of animals as independent pieces, with a variety and a fantasy that we don’t find in the previous centuries, when glass animals were featured mostly as decorations for other objects, such as vases, goblets, or candlesticks. Murano animals, designed in the XX century for a vast international market, are never represented in violent attitudes and are not conceived as toys. Apart from the miniature insects by Amadi, which are prodigious little masterpieces of realism, most items exhibited are stylized representations, where the artist tries to capture the essence of each creature rather than giving a naturalistic rendering.
Moreover, one of her purposes was showcasing Murano glass animals throughout the entire century, regardless of local furnaces reputation.
As she states, ‘I intended to display the works of masters who are not with us anymore or those who operated in small glass factories.’
Beyond the celebrated designers and legendary masters, regular glassworkers tested new forms and colors almost every day. They were paid per single item, no matter how long it took to shape it.
Today they are paid per hour, and the fee is not cheap at all. Therefore there isn’t enough time to experiment with new subjects that require creativity and technical adaptations.
However, Giordana Naccari stresses the accent on the joyful and light approach of the entire exhibition, where visitors of any age can immerse themselves in a fantastic world of colors, lights, sounds, music. The variety of techniques employed by the Murano masters is huge, and covers the entire Murano production, from murrino to reticello, from lattimo to pulegoso, creating a sort of encyclopedia of Muranese skills.
The ex-owner himself, Pierre Rosenberg, commented that he had never visited such an entertaining exhibition in his life! At 85, he’s able to retain the same freshness and passion for animals of a child. He recently stated that, once his collection will leave his home to be transferred in the new museum ‘du grand siècle’, he hopefully will be able to start collecting again and cover his walls with new acquisitions!
If you happen to be in Venice before November 1st, 2021, don’t miss this exhibition, held at Le Stanze del Vetro, San Giorgio Maggiore Island, 10.00 am – 7.00 pm, Closed on Wednesdays. Your kids will love the Glass Ark !
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