Art & Culture, Creative Crafts, Events and Exhibitions
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“Venini & C., Genius Glassmaker of Murano” at Romont’s VitroMusée

Swiss stained glass museum

Detail of “Fame” (Personification of Fame) c. 1900 by Carl Almquist (1839-1927), part of the Vitromusée’s permanent collection. Carefully applied detail reflects the influence of Pre-Raphaelitism as well as the Arts and Crafts Movement. Gift of the Society of Friends of the Museum. Photo: CLG.

A visit to the Romont Vitromusée has all the elements of a perfect day trip: a singular collection found in an historic setting that’s accessible via direct rail links running through a stunning, pastoral landscape.

From Medieval to Contemporary times

The Vitromusée’s stained-glass collection includes pieces from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau periods through to contemporary creations. Photo courtesy of Romont Tourism Office.

The Romont Vitromusée of Stained Glass and Reverse Painting on Glass exhibits some of Switzerland’s most historically significant and visually stunning glass objects in a 13th-century timber-beamed castle that sits amidst a medieval hilltop village, making a visit there more than just another day at the museum.

Stained glass treasures of the Medieval and Renaissance periods through to Contemporary works hang on three floors of the Castle’s 13th-century wing, renovated in 2006 to accomodate them. On the other side of a glass passerelle some 300 examples of reverse painting on glass found in pictures, jewellery and miniatures can be found in the 16th-century extension that includes a Baroque hall and two rooms renovated to reveal their original decor.

Now I have to admit that while I find the collection of reverse paintings comprehensive and really very impressive, personal taste has me spending considerably more time with the beauties of the stained glass collection.

Opalescent glass from the Tiffany Studios

Detail from “Ecce Agnus Dei, John the Baptist meets Christ”, c. 1195. One of the oldest pieces of stained glass in Switzerland, this work survived the destruction of virtually all the medieval glass in Lausanne Cathedral. It featured in the great rose window until the cathedral’s restoration in 1900. Loaned to the Vitromusée by the Musée d’Archeologie et d’Histoire, Lausanne. Photo CLG.

There, too, I have my preferences, so while the Medieval and Renaissance pieces inspire my awe and admiration, my heart always tugs me over to the 19th- and 20th-century masterpieces. Of these my favourites include “Fama”, c.1900, by Carl Almquist and inspired by the English Arts & Crafts Movement; and Saint Cecilia, made the same year by Jakob Adolf Holzer using American opalescent glass from the Tiffany Studios in New York.

Holzer “plated” the glass in layers to achieve depth and subtlety of color, which explains how, for example, Saint Cecilia’s arm looks so natural with its gentle gradients of soft peach and brown. The entire work glows: a pretty, golden-haired girl attired in robes of yellow, emerald green and eggplant stands in a field of mother-of-pearl-colored irises, a soft pink halo around her head. If Holzer was trying to create something appropriately heavenly, he achieved it.

Picking favourites

“Lady with a Rose”c. 1917 by Owen Bonawit, displayed under the eaves of Romont Castle. Photo: CLG.

But if I had to choose something for my own home (do you do that at exhibitions, too?) it would be Lady with a Rose and its sister panel Lady with a Book, c. 1917, by Owen Bonawit (David Bowen), one of the most talented American glass artists of his time.

Instead of using flat glass, the glass here was cast in relief to produce a thicker end product with a contoured surface that offers more depth and luminosity. The panels evoke Tudor portraits with their characteristic damask background. They are lush but restrained and also serenely beautiful.

To tempt even more, you’ll also find pieces created by Frank Lloyd Wright, John La Farge, a rival of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and by Marc Chagall and Augusto Giacometti, to name a few.

Vitrocentre — art history, conservation, documentation

A modern stained-glass window hangs in the Museum’s Orangery, looking onto the courtyard.

In 2008 the Vitrocentre joined the Museum in the Castle grounds and its staff of experts research the art history, conservation and technology of stained glass and reverse painting on glass and produce expert reports, books and articles relating to the glass arts.

A new project realized in December 2017, the Vitrosearch database offers a glimpse of the precious artworks kept at the Vitromusée and elsewhere in Switzerland.

View of the gardens and backs of houses in Romont Old Town as seen from the ramparts.

Situated above Vevey in Canton Fribourg, getting to Romont involves some car or rail travel but direct trains arrive and depart hourly from and to Geneva and along the way the views of Lake Geneva and the rolling agricultural landscape make the trip worthwhile in its own right, as does a stroll around the Castle ramparts.

The Old Town of Romont, accessible from the station by a 10-to-15 minute uphill walk (take it slowly in the summer) has kept its charming Medieval buildings whose gardens can be seen from the castle ramparts.

A visit to the town has to include stopping by the Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, a 15th-century Gothic style building that offers ancient and contemporary stained-glass windows to rival that of the nearby museum’s.

Venini & C., Genius Glassmaker at Murano

Paolo Venino, “Incisi”, 1956-57, © Ph. Enrico Fiorese/© Servizi Fondazione Pentagram, LE STANZE DEL VETRO, Venice Period Photographs.

Until 11 November 2018, one more reason (if you need one) to head to Romont is the wonderful temporary exhibition “Venini & C., The Genius Glassmaker at Murano”, the fruit of a collaboration between the Romont Vitromusée and Le Stanze del Ventro in Venice.

Considered one of the key figures of glass art in the 20th century in Venice, Paolo Venini (1895-1959) trained as a lawyer, but in 1921 he joined with Giacomo Cappellin to establish a glass-making business in Murano, the island famous for its centuries-old tradition of glass art.

Charles Lin Tissot, “Zanfirici”, 1955, © Ph. Enrico Fiorese/ © Servizi Fondazione Pentagram, LE STANZE DEL VETRO, Venice Period Photographs.

After establishing a new partnership with Napoleone Martinuzzi in 1929, Venini founded his eponymously-named business for which he acted as both director and designer. His creations lead to an international revival of glass art by joining a “sophisticated visual language” with an understanding for the demands of international markets and a mastery of the traditional techniques of Murano glass production.

The skill and know-how of the local glassblowers with whom he worked and his instinct for collaborating with artists, designers and architects of national and international renown contributed enormously to the business’s success.

Tobia Scarpa, “Occhi”, 1959-60, © Ph. Enrico Fiorese/ © Servizi Fondazione Pentagram, LE STANZE DEL VETRO, Venice Period Photographs.

The exhibition presents more than a hundred glass objects of incredible beauty, imagination, skill and sophistication designed by Paolo Venini from 1934 until his death as well as by Riccardo Licata, Tobia Scarpa, Charles Lin Tissot, Gio Ponti and Ken Scott. The fruit of their collaborative genius touches on the divine. 

 


Venini & C., The Genius Glassmaker at Murano
Until 11 November 2018
Exhibition Activities & Demonstrations
Romont Vitromusée
Au Château, P.O. Box 150
CH-1680,Romont
Phone: +41 (0)26 652 10 95
Email: info@vitromusee.ch
General Information (note: the museum closes between 1pm and 2pm)

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2 Comments

  1. Melissa Walsh says

    Thank you Elena. This looks really interesting! Melissa

    On Mon, 3 Sep 2018, 15:45 Creative Living Geneva, wrote:

    > Elena posted: ” A visit to the Romont Vitromusée has all the elements of a > perfect day trip: a singular collection found in an historic setting that’s > accessible via direct rail links running through a stunning, pastoral > landscape. From Medieval to Contempor” >

    Like

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