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A look at the Oriente range of Murano Glass

The Oriente range of Murano glass is one of the most recognisable with its vibrant display of colours of free–formed patches of green, yellow, blue, purple, black, and white stars, avventurina glass, and pieces of zanfirico canes fused to make brilliantly coloured vases and bowls. The pattern on every piece was unique. We look at some examples of Oriente glass, along with some prices realised at auction and we also feature some of the design techniques used.

The first series of Murano glass to have the name Oriente was created by Ercole Barovier in 1940 for Barovier & Toso. Barovier’s design was characterised by a “tartan” motif consisting of flat coloured rods, on a colourless transparent backing, with applications of lots of silver leaves. Although of great interest it is the second series that really typifies the Oriente range of the 1950s.

Ercole Barovier Oriente Vase 1940
Ercole Barovier Oriente Vase 1940. Sold for $21,420 at Christies, March 2022.

The second series of Oriente glass was created and exhibited in 1951 by Dino Martens (1894–1970) whilst at the Aureliano Toso glass factory. Using traditional techniques, Martens managed to create bold asymmetrical shapes, characterised by rich colourings, obtained with irregular patches of brightly-coloured vitrous pastes, avventurina, fragments of zanfirico and  the characteristic “flower” (named by Martens)  a pinwheel / circle formed by spokes of black and lattimo rods.

The Oriente range created by Dino Martens has become very desirable and collectable. In 2021 Bonhams sold a Unique Monumental Dino Martens Anfora ‘Ape’ Vase for an amazing US$ 256,562 (£ 210,943). The piece included internally decorated patchwork glass with pinwheel, filigrana, zanfirico and copper inclusions. The Oriente vases are significantly more valuable than the bowls.

Oriente Unique Monumental Anfora Ape Vase by Dino Martens
Dino Martens Unique Monumental Oriente Anfora ‘Ape’ Vase 1952 model no. 3169, for Aureliano Toso Sold for US$ 256,562 (£ 210,943) at Christies, October 2021.

What are Zanfirico canes? Zanfirico canes are a type of glass cane used in the creation of Murano glass. These canes are made with multiple colors of glass, which are then twisted together to create a spiral effect. Zanfirico canes are technically classified as murrine, which is a type of Venetian glass that is characterized by its multicolored patterns. These canes are made by combining fragments of glass of different colors and then heating them until they fuse together. The resulting cane is then pulled and stretched until it becomes thin and long. Zanfirico canes are often used to create ornate vases, bowls, and other decorative objects. These canes can also be used to create smaller murrine, which are then used as embellishments on other glass items.

Murano Oriente glass ewer Dino Martens for Aureliano Toso with patch work coloured glass body
Murano Oriente glass ewer Dino Martens for Aureliano Toso with patch work coloured glass body. Sold for £3,200 at Peter Wilson, May 2013.

What is Avventurina glass? Avventurina glass is a type of Venetian glass that contains inclusions of copper or other metals, which give the glass a sparkling, glittering appearance. The word “avventurina” comes from the Italian word for “adventure,” and it is said to have been invented by accident when a metal filings fell into a batch of molten glass. Today, avventurina glass is often used in jewelry and other decorative items. It is also popular for its use in spirit lamps, which are used in spiritual practices such as Feng Shui. The sparkling copper inclusions are said to represent the element of fire, which is associated with wealth, abundance, and good fortune.

Dino Martens bowl from Oriente series
Dino Martens bowl from Oriente series. Sold for £350 at Bonhams, October 2021.

What is Lattimo glass? Lattimo is an Italian word meaning “milky.” Lattimo glass is opaque, milky white glass that is commonly used in Murano glassmaking. Lattimo rods are made from this type of glass and are used to create beautiful murrine, which are like small mosaics. The rods are first cut into thin slices, and then the slices are layered on top of each other to create patterns. Once the desired pattern is achieved, the rods are heated until they fuse together. The result is a stunning piece of art that can be used to decorate jewelry, vases, or other objects.

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