Setting a Festive Table: Fenton and Murano Glass for Every Course

Left: Lot 4296, Fulvio Bianconi for Venini Pezzato Parigo Murano bowl, c. 1960, Kaminski Auctions (November 27);
Right: Lot 957, Mosaic Murano vase, Auktionshaus Zofingen (December 9)

From where we gather during the holidays, to the time-honored recipes we serve around the communal table, to the pieces in which we serve those beloved dishes, this time of year is for expressing who we are and what we love.

This season also offers a great opportunity to take your collectible pieces off the shelf and put them to good use at your holiday fete. In fact, some of our favorite pieces to serve and display during the holidays include artisanal Fenton and Murano glass.

Fenton glass is a uniquely American style of glassware design which originated in the Midwest (Ohio) in the early 1900s with John and Frank Fenton. Heavily influenced by Tiffany glass and Steuben glass craftsmanship, Fenton glass takes on the iridescent finishes of carnival glass as well as the iconic hobnail style in many of its pieces.

Murano glass, on the other hand, has been produced on the Venetian island of Murano in Italy since the 7th century. Murano glass is most commonly associated with the multicolored glass (millefiori) technique, which blends brilliant colors within its glassware. Murano glass includes crystalline glass, enameled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation glass gemstones.

The lyrical designs, rich colors, and opalescent finishes of Fenton and Murano glass make them a great choice for the holiday table. We explored Invaluable’s collection of Fenton glass vases, bowls, platters, and plates to spark fun ideas for displaying drinks and desserts, while the vibrant expressionism and bold colors of Murano glass inspired table-scape designs and beyond. Here are some of our favorite glass objects for both displaying and putting to good use, course by course.

Cocktail Hour

Fenton glass often comes in opalescent finishes and vibrant colors associated with carnival glass. These vibrant touches highlight the fluid curves and ruffle-like edges of many of these highly collectible pieces. While you might think that Fenton glass is used primarily for vases, a set of tumblers like the example below would make a lovely addition to your pre-dinner cocktail hour.

Fenton swirled-feather 7-piece water set, Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates (July 2014)

Fenton Hobnail punch bowl set with tumblers, mid-20th century,
Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers (October 2016)

As guests arrive, why not serve a signature drink in a variety of unique collectible glasses including a swirled-feather pitcher and set of glass tumblers? You might also try offering up a special holiday punch in a Fenton Hobnail punch bowl.

Appetizers

Take your lovely collectible Fenton glass bowls and platters down from their displays and put them to good use as functional pieces during the appetizer course. Artisan-composed hors d’oeuvres can be placed delicately on fluted Fenton glass platters.

Fenton pink art glass ruffled-edge epergne,
EJ’s Auction & Consignment (November 12, 2016)

Serving mixed nuts, olives, or dried fruits? Put out your finger foods in a variety of serving bowls like a lovely Fenton carnival glass “Dragon Lotus” bowl. The shallow shape and fluted edges of these Fenton glass pieces are perfect for your guests to grab a handful of delicious goodies as they await the main feast. Or think outside of the box and use something like a pink art glass ruffled edge epergne to hold fruit and add a touch of drama to your pre-meal spread.

Dinner

An artful tablescape sets holiday dinner apart from your average weeknight affair. Holiday tablescapes can go beyond pure function and give you a chance to bring a personal flair to the holiday table. We love the idea of using signature Murano glass vases to create an eye-catching holiday tablescape. Use the flora of the season like wheat stalks, dried berries on stems, rustic branches, and hearty greens to bring the outside in and celebrate the bounty of the season.

Left: Vintage Murano vase, 1960s; Right: Gambaro vase, 2015, Casanova Venetian Glass & Art

Lot 280, Large Venetian glass vase, c. 1950-60,
Deutsch Auktionen (November 29)

Consider a collection of vases all in a similar color palette, or going for a more eclectic look by mixing and matching your favorite vintage Murano glass vases to create a unique tablescape.

Dessert

Let your desserts shine against lovely mix-and-match glass plates. Carnival glass is the perfect backdrop for a slice of pumpkin pie and a dollop of whipped cream. A set of carnival glass plates, including pieces of Murano glass, would provide an iridescent, ethereal aesthetic.

Assorted carnival glass articles, early 20th century, Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates (July 2016)

Don’t have a full set? Not to worry, use your collectible plates as chargers and fill in the gaps with your more serviceable china. A crisp white plate atop a Murano glass charger would be an excellent way to enjoy a holiday dessert.

Large Lino Tagliapietra charger with applied canes, 1986, blown glass, Objects20c

Coffee

The main event may be over, but holiday meals often give way to long lingering after-dinner conversation. Offer coffee or tea in a Murano hand-blown enamel coffee set for a festive ending to an extra special holiday for you and your loved ones.

Murano hand-blown enamel dessert coffee cups and saucers,
EJ’s Auction & Consignment (May 2016)

Looking for Fenton and Murano glass stunners for your holiday table? See works available to buy now at Casanova Venetian Art & Glass, Objects20c, Maurice Bean Art & Design, 1 of a Kind, and more, or bid in upcoming auctions including Kaminski Auctions’ The Belvedere Guest House, Day Two (November 27), Historia Auktionshaus’ Auction 133 (December 8) and Auktionshaus Zofingen’s “56th Auction,” Day 1 and Day 2 (December 9-10).