Art | The Reconnoisseur

Remarkable sculptures from a glass maestro

Glass has seldom seemed so tactile

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Remarkable sculptures from a glass maestro

April 16 2010
Bettina von Hase

Tristano di Robilant is a brilliant Venetian artist who focuses on ceramics and glass. His work is sensuous, clever and highly collectable. I saw it for the first time at a friend’s house in Tuscany two years ago; the glass sculptures were immediately appealing because they differed profoundly from the usual Venetian fare. They made a big impression on me, and a couple of months ago I bought a striking example of his work in green glass (second picture).

Now some of his works are on show at the Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo in Venice (until May 9). Displayed in the setting of a 17th-century palazzo, the 10 pieces in the exhibition seem to breathe in and reflect the atmosphere of this grand and lived-in interior, overlooking the Grand Canal.

Di Robilant uses colour sparingly, employing hues such as amber and a flash of red in otherwise transparent pieces. The sculptures are made together with a glassblower in Murano. To begin with, di Robilant makes preparatory drawings, which are then interpreted by the glassblower. The artist is able to make small changes during the process, which also includes the work of a grinder, who polishes the glass after it has been blown.

“The colours echo Venice, reflect its light; the surfaces, like skin, soak up its memory. They are like a crystallisation of Venetian history,” di Robilant told me.

There is something both fluid and solid about the sculptures, mostly geometric forms inside vessels, or bottles and goblets with strange protruding shapes. Glass has seldom looked so tactile and velvety. Prices are from £3,500 to £8,000.