Murano Glass is an art, and like any other art form it has its famous geniuses, the real artists who had talent, vision, and persistence to move it forward. In the thousand years of its existence, Murano Glass evolved from the humble beginnings of crammed Murano Island workshops of the middle ages to the international fame it enjoys today. Many famous Murano Glass artists brought about this evolution, but one of the top names and the real revolutionary in the conservative world of Murano Glass was Archimede Seguso.
Have you ever found yourself gazing at the gorgeous window displays of numerous Murano Glass stores in Venice amazed at the infinite possibilities of colors and forms, and wondering about the masters behind them? Lots of Murano Glass artisans work on the Island today and many family workshops have been proudly making Murano Glass for generations, yet none is as famous as Seguso. Behind Seguso label, lays one of Venice’s most marvelous and dazzling stories. This family name conceals secrets to masterful skills, inimitable talent and transcendent works of art.
It all started with Archimede Seguso, born on the island of Murano, in 1909.Shy, brilliant and quite distinguished, Archimede Seguso was a man of intellect, yet at the same time, he used the art of glass making to express himself. Never following any model or predefined idea, Seguso would come up with different methods and techniques never seen before in glass making. It was this boldness mixed with his genius that positioned him as a reference point for other artists and artisans.
With a rather solid history in Murano, the Seguso family had lived and worked on this Venetian island for over 650 years, gaining popularity throughout time for their special glass making methods. They were considered experts thanks to their glass blowing technique, and young Archimede became familiar with the business at the very tender age of 11. He was put to work alongside experienced masters who taught him complex skills, and by the age of 17 he became a master and a partner in the furnace he worked in.
The Soffieria Barovier Seguso & Ferro became Seguso Vetri d’Arte in 1933, marking great progress and innovations in the glass making industry, thanks as well to the collaboration of artistic directors Flavio Poli and Vittorio Zecchin. With the creative help of Poli and Zecchin, Seguso started concentrating on his love for massive sculpture, no easy fit due to the special skills and abilities required in creating and handling heavy glass. His interest in art through Murano Glass got him nothing less than a righteous place in the post-war Venice Biennale.
By 1946, Archimede had achieved total freedom and maturity in the artistic field, and therefore decided to open his own workshop, Vetreria Seguso Archimede. This new atelier would see his new creations flourish and thrive: his delicate “filigrane”, the famous “piume” and “merletti”, his vases and his countless chandeliers. It was in this atelier that Seguso became one of the finest Venetian glassblowers in the world.
Seguso started conquering the world with his highly demanded glass chandeliers. He decorated cinemas, churches and theatres with beautiful exquisite Murano Glass. He also experimented with a new technique called “Sommerso”, which means “submerged”, and with this he created the most extravagant pieces mixing colors in different orders and arranging them one on top of the other. Then came his vases full of little “merletti”, or rather small floating color threads which defied traditional designs by being set inside the glass rather than on top, thus creating a web-like design similar to filigree. Archimede’s vases were also famous for their geometric Losanghe designs.
Seguso changed the industry of glass making with his bold and courageous inventions, full of creativity and elegance. He became known for his wide collection of animal figurines made of Alabastro Glass, Millefiori Glass, or featuring gold leaf decoration. Archimede dared defy and improve ancient glassmaking traditions by using incandescent glass and creating each piece by blowing into iron canes. He was a genius when it came to regulating colors and nuances by the thickness of the glass, and mixing materials and tools to create mind-blowing masterpieces. He managed tools and old techniques so well he created textures and illusions like no one else before him. He mixed gold dust and created “golden ivory”, “amber green spots” and “golden coral” works. No need to wonder why Murano Glass collectors all over the world covet his pieces at any cost. His secrets and know-how were shared with his sons when the eldest one, Gino Seguso, joined the atelier in 1959, followed by Giampaolo Seguso in 1964. This gave Archimede time to redirect his love of art to massive sculptures, taking them to exhibitions all around the world, from Palazzo Grassi in Venice to Tiffany & Co. in New York.
During the last years of his life, his focus turned to color, exploring the multitude of color nuances and the infinite possibilities of combining color and light, specifically he created a series of his famous “Fenice” (or Phenix) vases referring to the tragic Venetian fire. His long years of research and innovation were passed on to his family, who cherish and keep alive his numerous secrets and masterful techniques. Archimede Seguso peacefully passed away in 1999, leaving a rich and strong legacy behind him. People close to him remember him the way he was: a tranquil man sitting by the furnace, happy and contented with his great life. The artworks and knowledge he left behind are proof of his bold ideas of beauty, creativity and functionality.Nowadays his grandson Antonio, who now runs the Vetreria Artistica Archimede Seguso, continues to honor his grandfather’s virtuous talents while also owning the whole company’s glass collection. Archimede’s love for Murano Glass is also kept alive thanks to the many craftsmen who incorporate his very essence into every piece they make: the creativity, the boldness, the grace, and the elegance. From the Venice Biennale, to the Triennale in Milan, to the Palazzo Ducale and the Murano Glass Museum, his artworks can still be appreciated by many. Churches, theaters and museums proudly preserve his memory – full of intricate chandeliers and vases – documenting a piece of Murano’s history and bewildering the world with it. It’s no surprise that historian Giuseppe Kappa named Archimede Seguso the “living encyclopedia of glass”.