Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Isabel Antonia Giampietro-Knoll

Isabel Antonia Giampietro-Knoll (1917-2010) was an Italian-born glassware designer and sculptor. In 1928 she immigrated with her mother, brother and sister to join her father in New York. She grew up in Brooklyn and received her undergraduate degree from Manhattanville College in 1940. She later studied under the famous artist Romagnoli at the Scuola dell'Arte della Medaglia in Rome. She received a master's degree in sculpture from the Fine Arts Academy in Rome. She also received a certificate from Konstfachskolan in Stockholm, Sweden.

Although she is one of the lesser-known designers of the 1950s, her work is so graceful and beautiful that she should not be overlooked. In a 1984 piece, the New York Times called her work "as graceful as it is innovative." She did not produce a large body of work, but what she did produce was unique. She designed glassware with a stem that was all one piece, creating extremely strong glasses that were more efficient to produce. She also designed goblets that could be inverted, using the stems as smaller glasses.

Her best known design is the Riflesso line of crystal glassware she designed for Royal Leerdam, which won the Gran Prix at the Brussels Exposition in 1958. Part of the line is a unique punchbowl and decanter. Of the collection she would say, “[It was] an excuse to show the tension, fragility, transparency and strength possible of crystal.” Another line for Royal Leerdam was Narciso, for which she was a gold medal nominee at the Milan Triennale in 1957. Giampietro also worked as a glassware designer for Gullaskufs Glassware in Sweden.

She was a national Endowment of the Arts Grantee in 1978, for continuance of her work.

Her pieces are part of the permanent collections at the Corning Museum of Glass and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City, as well as The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C. Also, the National Glass Museum in Holland has a large collection of her glass, and the Hanneke Fokkelman gallery, also in Holland, had a retrospective of Isabel’s work in 2007.

While she never labeled herself a modernist, her work reflects a simplicity and functionality that were hallmarks of modern decorative arts. She said of her work, “I was interested in the process of how crystal was made, not just the design”.


Royal Leerdam Le Mystère que c'est la nature

Royal Leerdam Narciso

Drawing of Narciso sherry glass

Riflesso line

Royal Leerdam Riflesso

Room interior with a Giampietro sculpture


  1. Gorgeous! The glassware is beautiful (way too pretty to use!) and I love the sculpture. Her work may have to go on my "dream items" list.

    1. Her glassware is so beautiful that it's hard to believe she was more interested in the technical aspect of glass production than in design.

  2. Replies
    1. I'd give anything to see that Riflesso punchbowl, decanter and pitcher in person.

    2. Hello Dana,
      If you are ever up in the Adirondacks, please drop me a line.
      ( I am Isabel's son and have all of her collection.
      Thank you so much for your gracious words!

      Andy Knoll

    3. Andy, it would be worth a special trip to upstate New York to see your mother's beautiful work. I will definitely contact you if I get up that way.

      Thank you so much for commenting on my blog and for your kind invitation.

    4. glass ware. English comprehension.

  3. "classy" would be an apt adjective for these.

    1. Aren't they? As always, the simpler, the classier!

  4. All very elegant and yet simple. Love the reversable function of the Narciso glass!

    1. Yes, that's a cool feature of those glasses. Such a simple concept, yet so few glass designers have done it.