Video courtesy of ARTINFO
It all started one evening at sunset. A ray of light filtered through the rose window of the Frari church in Venice. It had a magical effect - unique. The material strength of the glass, which allowed its transparency to be pierced, and those circles edged with lead became wondrous items. So, Giberto Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga, Gibi to his friends, recounts one of the most powerful, spell-binding moments that brought him, 15 years ago, to want to create objects made of glass and other materials such as wood, vermeil, agate and rock crystal.
Those sealed rims, rebuilt in wood, have become a set of placemats in his collection. Silver profiles can be customized with an individual's initials or emblem engraved in the centre.
Venice's Murano glass remains central to the work of Giberto - its magic has spread to other objects, most of all glasses but also candle holders, picture frames, vases and decanters.
Growing up in Venice, in rooms frescoed by Tiepolo at Palazzo Papadopoli overlooking the Grand Canal, Giberto was particularly inspired by old objects around the house. "Our carafe, which was chipped on the edge, has become one of my most successful creations: a decanter to which I added a silver beak, like that of the seagull’s that fly over the lagoon."
He resurrects the most beautiful objects from his memories to bring them back to life. Giberto has the nostalgia for the past, but also the talent to recreate it by giving it new life. The cups of his Portuguese grandmother, made of precious coconut wood, are now produced in hand-blown glass from Murano and are called 'Byzantium'. On the bottom, in contact with the saucer, is the mold of a Doge Donà coin from the 16th century. "I started to produce things for myself and for my friends. Then I started getting more requests and I decided to get serious about it." explains Giberto.
The classic shapes, due to their engravings, assume the rarity of unique objects, as in the series of glasses with engraved details of the facades of the most beautiful buildings in Venice: The Ducal Palace, Ca’ d'Oro, Palazzo Grimani, Ariani, Papadopoli and Spinelli. Among the Arrivabene range of glasses there’s only one goblet. "Usually I don’t like stems," confesses Giberto. "I created champagne coupes upon request of a friend, but the form had to remain simple. It’s the detail that makes the difference."
So came the Lacrima glasses, with a coloured drop which descends down from the rim, or the liqueur glasses with a small semi-precious stone embedded in the glass. Luxury items most certainly, but they don’t need a palace to be enjoyed and would look good in any apartment. "That's why I like to be inspired by the 17th century. It’s a simple, straightforward century. It’s not as camp and exaggerated as the 18th century, or as dark and heavy as the 19th century.
Giberto's frames for example are based on very classical models that are no longer available. "For that reason, explains Giberto, I decided to recreate frames similar to the ones containing family photos that we had at home when I was little." They are made of slate, silver, glass, agate, and even rock crystal, which has become increasingly rare. "Precious frames make memories and images of our lives even more beautiful."
There are materials that never go out of fashion, and glass is certainly one of them. "I still have drinking glasses from two centuries ago stored in my cupboards. They are perfect. Once cleaned and polished, I challenge anyone to distinguish old from new." Yet they are all different, each one having been created uniquely - like the thick, stained glass at the Frari church - up there for centuries to allow the light to shine through and create magic.