Design Masterworks 19 May 2016

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Ercole Barovier

Important Mosaico vase

Vetreria Artistica Barovier
Italy, 1925
internally decorated glass with murrines and rods
8 dia x 13¾ h in (20 x 35 cm)

result: $257,000

estimate: $150,000–200,000

Incised signature to lower edge: [E. Barovier Murano].

provenance: An Important American Collection
literature: Art of the Barovier: Glassmakers in Murano 1866-1972, Barovier, pg. 94 illustrates model Mille Anni di Arte del Vetro A Venezia, Barovier Mentasti, Dorigato, Gasparetto and Toninato, pg. 256 illustrates model Ercole Barovier 1888-1974: Vetraio Muranese, Dorigato, pg. 25 illustrates model

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Vetro Mosaico

Technical Virtuoisity in Glass

By the mid 1920s, Ercole Barovier had become both artistic director and principal designer at Artistica Barovier, and among his first designs were vases executed in blown mosaic glass. While Ercole’s vessels employed the vetro mosiaco technique first developed and popularized by his uncle Guiseppe Barovier, Ercole’s designs were far more radical and modern. Executed in vivid colors and often reducing plant and flower forms to near expressionist patterns, these vases are considered masterpieces of early modernist design. Made in extremely limited numbers, these works are exceedingly rare. Less than five examples of this particular model are known to exist, and each is a unique variant. Today all the mosaic vases created at Artistica Barovier during the 1920s are highly valued due to their rarity, beauty, technical virtuosity and historical significance.

A similar example featured in the Baroiver retrospective at the XXVI Biennale Internazionale d'Arte, Venice, 1952. (Photograph reproduced from Ercole Barovier 1888-1974: Vetraio Muranese by Attilia Dorigato, 1989, Marsilio Editori)

Ercole Barovier 1889-1972

The nearly fifty year tenure of Ercole Barovier as artistic director, designer and owner of Barovier & Toso is unprecedented in the history of Murano glass, and the firm’s success stands as a testament to his singular artistic talent and entrepreneurial genius.

Born in 1889 to a Muranese family that could trace its origins back to the 13th century, Ercole did not train as a glassblower but had a great passion for glass and quickly distinguished himself as an innovative designer. He joined Artisti Barovier in 1919 at the age of 30 and found success designing vases in the mosaic technique. In 1930 he produced the critically acclaimed and award-winning Primavera series, the success of which encouraged him to continue his experiments.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s Ercole’s dedication to the technical mastery of experimental glass brought him international fame. His thick-walled vessels decorated with un-melted pigments, highly textured surfaces, raw metallic inclusions and expressive hot-work applications helped to create a new aesthetic vocabulary for Murano glass in the first half of the 20th century.

During the post-war period, Ercole’s prescient experimentation continued. Exploring the vast potential of glass tessere arranged in geometric patterns, Ercole re-invented mosaic glass and used it to express the renewed artistic vigor of post-war Italy.

By the time of his retirement in 1972 Ercole Barovier had designed thousands of models for his company. And while many of these were never produced, the body of work that was created is staggering in its diversity, creative daring and technical complexity.