In 1988, twenty years after Dale Chihuly was a Fulbright Fellow at the Venini glass factory, the artist returned to Venice. During this trip, he visited a palazzo that houses an extraordinary private collection of Venetian glass, mostly Art Deco-era examples blown for the Venini glass house, that exemplified the apogee of Venetian glass art. Intrigued by these astonishing and wildly inventive pieces from the 1920s and 1930s, Chihuly determined that he would design his own versions of “Venetians.” The following summer, he invited Lino Tagliapietra to work with him as a gaffer—and thus, one of Chihuly’s most daring and controversial series was born.
Of course, a series that began in imitation of tradition style very quickly evolved into Chihuly’s own expression. TheVenetians in the Stroemple Collection include the Putti Venetians, capacious and ambitious vessels, each with hot-formed figurative sculptures of putti and mythological creatures included in the design; Venetians (without putti); Piccolo Venetians, the smaller but no less spirited vessels originally based on traditional Venetian themes; Bottlestoppers, three monumental vessels inspired by perfume bottles, surmounted by hot-formed sculptures made by Pino Signoretto; and a selection of Chihuly drawings of Venetians, evidence of Chihuly’s creative process as he conceived of the Venetian designs. In all of the Venetians—called by Donald Kuspit a “toast to life”—Chihuly achieves his most resplendently baroque work, with blazing color, coiled tendrils, overblown flora and impish putti.