A journey back to the past tracing the footsteps of a visionary man – renowned lawyer turned entrepreneur – and the company that has borne his name since 1859.
In 1859 in his premises at Number 731 of Dorsoduro, Venice the “Salviati Dott. Antonio fu Bartolomeo” company was established. This is when, Vicenza-born lawyer Antonio Salviati started the entrepreneurial career, moved by a passion for the precious mosaics of the Basilica of San Marco and fascinated by Murano glass art, he decided to start-up his own production of mosaics and objects in Murano glass.
An ambitious and far-sighted goal pushed him along this path: to revive the fate of Murano glass production that has been fallen for decades.
A challenge which finds the maximum support from two fundamental figures in the history of Murano glass: the mayor of the island, Antonio Colleoni, and the Abbot Vincenzo Zanetti, founder of the glass museum and of the first art school for glass masters.
The launchpad was the “First Glassmakers’ Exhibition” in 1864 in which Salviati participated with a monumental mosaic that earns him a prize superior to the Gold Medal. The success achieved affirmed the credibility of the Company which thus started its glass production in Palazzo da Mula.
The new corporate and productive reality needed investors and the lawyer started to internationalise the company by addressing the economic and financial market across the Channel.
The UK immediately showed huge interest in Salviati’s mosaics – as testified by the mosaic that can be seen on the façade of the current Apple Store in Regent Street, London. It was also in London, on 21st December 1866, that the “Società Anonima per Azioni Salviati & C.” was established with the support of diplomat Sir Austen Henry Layard and historian William Drake. The new corporate set-up was further established with the purchase of a new headquarter, this time on the Riva dei Vetrai in Murano.
“Venice owes a debt of gratitude to the knight Salviati in the resurgence for one of the most legitimately famous of its industries”. From Esposizione Illustrata di Parigi, 1867 pg. 275.
“Venice and Italy have gain huge success in the Universal Exhibition. The resurgence of one of the city’s most famous industries is consecrated in this very occasion by the gold medal awarded by the jury to Mr Salviati […] the crowd […] is gathering around the display cases that hold those pieces of glass that are so transparent and so light as to appear like woven air, impregnated, when in their elegant forms that become rainbows of those iridescent reflections that cover them at the artist’s whim – the author of a real ray of sunshine from the beautiful and splendid Venice”. From Esposizione Illustrata di Parigi, 1867 pg. 311
Training plays a fundamental role for the Company; attendance at the Art School was made compulsory for “[…] all the young workers of the Factory who don’t only tire themselves in manual work. This was established with the idea not only to lift their dignity and their initially limited aspirations, […] but also to improve their artistic education and thereby facilitate an improvement also in their economic situation”.
Together with the art school, a free school was also set up to teach all employees to read and write.
In a short time, Salviati & C. diversified its production to include glasses, cups, amphoras, and vials which guaranteed the first prize in the universal exhibition for three consecutive years.
Its mosaic production also flourished, being used in world-class projects: from the Houses of Parliament in London, to the Viceroy’s palace in Alessandria in Egypt, to the Opera House of Paris, including the private homes of wealthy New York personality.
The entire 19th century for Salviati & C. was represented by development, success and fame in the national and international markets, and the Company became a symbol and reference point of Murano glass art throughout the world.
On the death of Antonio Salviati in 1890, first his three children followed one another at the helm of the company and then Maurizio Camerino, previously general manager. It was thanks to him that the decorative mosaic project of the Stanford Memorial Church in Palo Alto (California, USA) took place after 12 years of work. As well as the opening of a sales point in Via Montenapoleone in Milan and the institution of a museum collection of Murano glass from the 19th and 20th centuries.
After Maurizio Camerino’s death in 1931, his three children took over the helm of the company: its solid foundations allowed them to strive for new important goals in the art world, participating in the Biennials of 1932 and 1934.
Not even the Second World War could tarnish the strength of the Salviati brand: in the post-war years Renzo Camerino renewed the ruined production headquarter and enthusiastically restored all his commercial contacts. Thanks to his grandson Renzo Tedeschi (newly graduated in Engineering at the Polytechnic of Turin and upon his return from an apprenticeship in the United States), Salviati launched its production in lighting appliances.
The following years saw intense growth in the number of collaborations with renowned artists and designers. In 1959, the production site was moved to Fondamenta Radi 16, where it still stands today.
The larger production area allowed the company to further expand the international market in the field of architectural lighting.
A number of projects were undertaken, such as the 9-tonne, 22-metres high chandelier in the Chamber of Commerce in Parma, the ceiling illumination in the premises of the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva and the Kowloon Hotel in Hong Kong; not to mention the sound-absorbing windows of the Aula Nervi in the Vatican and the lighting system of the great honour hall of the Philippine Plaza Hotel in Manila in collaboration with architect John Marsteller.
The reputation of Salviati & C. was further affirmed by the commission – after an international call for bids – for twelve 11-metre high chandeliers for the Tonhalle concert hall in Dusseldorf, made using an innovative system of modular glass elements – “LS- System” – one of the today company’s cornerstones.
The story of Salviati continues in the modern era, keeping the focus on creating an innovative style that had distinguished it since its inception. Participation in international exhibitions increased, such as the Venice Biennials from 1958 to 1972 (the final year in which Murano glass was allowed) thanks to projects by designers of the calibre of Betha and Teff Sarasin, Claire Falkestein, and Luciano Gaspari.
In 1962 Salviati was awarded with the highest recognition in the Design world, the “Compasso d’Oro” prize assigned by A.D.I. for the Marco vase designed by architect Sergio Asti.
In 1965 the company changed its name to Salviati & C. s.p.a.; then it was purchased by the Gruppo Ferruzzi in 1987 which later on it was transferred to a French company.
Since 2015 the company returned to be Venetian with the acquisition by the Umana group.
Luciano Gaspari, Sergio Asti (Compasso d’Oro 1962), Claire Falkenstein, Ward Bennet, Teff and Betha Sarasin, Ingo Maurer, Ross Lovegrove, Amanda Levete, Tom Dixon, Nigel Coates, Thomas Heatherwick, Luca Nichetto, Ben Gorham, Johanna Grawunder, Christian Ghion, Simon Moore, Heunz Oestergaard.
Pieces of Salviati are exhibited at the Musée du Verre in Lieges, at the Kestner Museum in Hannover, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, at the Museum Harretz in Tel Aviv, and at the Museo del Vetro di Murano.