Today I saw Jesus. He was being painted onto glass by a nun, who has been an artist at the Vetrate D’Arte Giuliani studio for 35 years. I managed to elicit some kind of conversation about her process using gesticulating hand motions and broken bits of Italian. This is one of my most memorable experiences during our trip to meet the top artisans of Rome. It’s not every day that you get to watch the artists who are responsible for the gorgeous glasswork at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, Pauline Chapel, and Borgia Apartments.
For more than 111 years, the Giuliani family has been designing handmade stained glass in Rome. Painter and chemist Giulio Cesare Giuliani worked with craftsman Cesare Picchiarini, who upon retiring, left him the business including his classes and students.
When the founder died in 1954 his son, Tommaso Giuliani, took over the business and moved it to a new space on the via Garibaldi, with special back-lit areas ideal for viewing painted details and illumination of color stains applied to glass. Each piece of glass is selected for the desired color then cut to match a section of a template. Once the glass is painted, the pieces are assembled by slotting them into lead ‘cames’, or divider bars, then all joints are soldered together.
Farmboy Fine Arts’ library boasts a special souvenir from this trip: a book about the restoration of the Casina delle Civette (House of the Owls), which was the residence of Prince Giovanni Torlania until 1938. The original workshop, Cesare Picchiarini, created the ubiquitous beautiful stained glass pieces in the house, which has been converted from a Swiss style cabin to a Medieval hamlet throughout the decades.
From 1916 the ‘House of the Owls’ has lived up to it’s name with the stained glass depicting two stylized owls amongst ivy, created by Duilio Cambellotti in 1914. The motif of the owl is used almost obsessively in the decorations and furnishings of the House, at the wish of Prince Giovanni.
After a fire in 1991, the House of Owls was in ruins and finally restored with meticulous work carried out from 1992 to 1997. It is now the only museum in Italy dedicated to artistic glassworks and contains fine examples of the Roman Liberty style—a.k.a. Art Neuveau—in Italy. Since the artwork is part of Vetrate D’Arte Giuliani’s tradition and history, they still have the original sketches and glass from some of the work that was produced.
Vetrate D’Arte Giuliani has maintained its original artistic character using ancient techniques, ongoing research, and the finest materials for beautiful stained glass that is guaranteed for 20 years. For more information, please contact the manager, Elsa Nocentini: +39 06 5809051 or email.
‘Farmboy in Roma’ is a blog series by FBFA Acquisitions Manager, Fatima Travassos, which offers readers a rare glimpse into the studios of some of Rome’s top artisans. A special thank you to the Italian Chamber or Commerce of Western Canada for offering FBFA the opportunity to participate in this wonderful experience.