Vintage Vistosi: 20th Century Glass, Lighting and Objects

When the topic of 20th century Italian glass comes up, people are most familiar with heavyweights such as Venini, Fontana Arte or Barovier Toso. Works by these master studios are seriously collected and can be found on the secondary market both at auction and on 1stdibs. Perhaps in the shadow of these companies are at least half a dozen smaller workshops that contributed to the treasure trove of 20th century Italian glass. One my favorites is Vistosi.

Vistosi is a paradigm of a company that produced a fascinating body of work during the second half of the 20th century that has not been properly documented. Now in the 21st century, scholarship (and serious collecting) is starting to percolate. While Vistosi is still open and active today — and creating some lovely glass lighting chandeliers (that are available through Design Within Reach) — it is the first generation of the company that is most interesting.

Vistosi was founded in 1945 but closed in the early 90's. About a decade ago the brand was revived and restructured. Arguably the most interesting period of their output was during the late sixties and early seventies. Vistosi's designs from this era seem to anticipate both minimalism and 80's excess — especially the lighting. There is a predominance of white or completely translucent glass and an emphasis on form, whether elongated/curvaceous or bulbous.

There are two examples of Vistosi in MoMA's permanent collection including Eleanore Peduzzi-Riva's giant "O" dish (my store Caviar20 just acquired an example of this 1972 masterwork).

While Vistosi's current operations have a dynamic and interesting website there is a scant amount of effort to document their patrimony. We do know that Vistosi worked with a significant number of important designers notably Ettore Sottsass, Gae Aulenti and Vico Magistretti. Their creations are well documented but it is the quirky one-offs and experiments that are hard to date, identify and authenticate.

Vistosi's two most famous vintage designs are the collection of birds by Alessandro Pianon and their colored disc chandelier. Both designs have been knocked-off for decades, so buyer beware. Here is a gallery with some of Vistosi's vintage treasures both iconic and unpredictable.

Images: Vistosi

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