Twenty-three glass sculptures after sketches by Picasso
Egidio Costantini was born in Brindisi, Italy, on April 22, 1912. When his father died in 1918, he moved to Venice with his family and studied at a technical college, where he obtained a radiotelegraph operator’s licence. He initially worked at the Circolo Motonautico of Venice, but upon the onset of World War II, he found a job as a clerk at the Banca Commerciale and studied for a degree in botany in his free time at the University of Parma. In 1945 he moved to Carnia and started working with the natural wood sources in the surrounding area. It was here that the artist first developed an interest in working with glass.
Before embarking on his own glassmaking career, Costantini began as an agent for several Murano glass factories in Venice, which allowed him to work with master glassblowers and learn the intricacies of the trade. He wanted to elevate the craft of glassblowing to the same level as sculpture or painting, so he mediated collaborations between glassblowers and artists to create glass sculptures based on drawings made by contemporary artists. He subsequently began to work with a group of Venetian artists and from this stemmed the founding in 1950 of the Centro Studio Pittori nell’Arte del Vetro di Murano. Four years later, he went to Paris to promote his project to the most famous artists of the time, and this led to collaborations with Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Gino Severini, and others.
In 1955 the Centro Studio dissolved, and Costantini opened his own gallery in Venice, the Fucina degli Angeli. After opening to initial success, the gallery was forced to close in 1958 but reopened in 1961 thanks to financial help from Peggy Guggenheim, who exhibited the work of the Fucina in her Venetian palace. There followed numerous shows, both in Italy and abroad, in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s Constantini was considered the “master of the masters,” or the one person who could teach artists how to transform their work into glass sculptures. In 2000 an exhibition of Fucina works was held in Tolmezzo, and another in Innsbruck in 2003. Costantini died in Venice on October 8, 2007.