The Collection of Robert and Lisa Kessler
By Sara Blumberg
It is with great pleasure that we present the glass collection of Robert and Lisa Kessler of Colorado. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Kesslers turned their attention to the field of Murano glass and proceeded to build a collection filled with rare and unique examples from the 1930s to the 1960s and beyond. As experienced collectors of art and design, they began their adventure in glass by identifying the best dealers and auction houses in the world. The pair understood the importance of following their own aesthetic path while keeping pace with the then emerging Italian glass market.
This spectacular collection covers many decades and highlights include rare examples by Carlo Scarpa, Napoleone Martinuzzi, Paolo Venini, Fulvio Bianconi, Archimede Seguso and Thomas Stearns. One of the great joys of curating this auction has been the chance to handle pieces not seen since their first appearance— whether in early auctions or in small exhibitions and catalogues. From the landmark sales of the early 1990s at Stadion in Milan to the best dealers in Europe and New York, the Kesslers were committed to acquiring the finest and rarest examples possible while adhering to their love of objects rooted firmly in the history of art and design.
The Kesslers were committed to acquiring the finest and rarest examples possible while adhering to their love of objects rooted firmly in the history of art and design.
Robert and Lisa Kessler are true collectors and their interests are as far reaching as they are deep. Well-known as connoisseurs of Southeast Asian bronzes and Chinese paintings and scrolls, perhaps their greatest passion is reserved for contemporary Japanese ceramics. One of the true pleasures of touring the Kessler’s various collections was recognizing their passion for art of all periods and origins expressed in sculptural form. It was therefore fascinating to note that most of their Murano glass pieces were chosen for their shapes and techniques as opposed to the transparency generally associated with glass. It is certainly no coincidence that the collection offers so many examples by Carlo Scarpa, whose love of Asian art and history is well known—this fascination is magnificently represented in his work as both a glass designer and architect. Scarpa’s work for MVM Cappellin and later for Venini perfectly expresses his desire to explore the medium of glass in new and dynamic ways by honoring the connection between surface (techniques often of his own invention) and form.
The Kessler glass collection is unique in many ways. With keen attention to new applications of ancient techniques, the choices made allow one to trace the most forward thinking efforts on the island of Murano during the 20th century.
The Kessler glass collection is unique in many ways. With keen attention to new applications of ancient techniques, the choices made allow one to trace the most forward thinking efforts on the island of Murano during the 20th century. From delicate Fenicio vases to Bollicine and Pulegoso vessels of the 1930s, one recognizes the intention to redefine the medium and move away from the tradition of transparency. The Postwar period brings more invention, this time a reaction to and reflection of world art expressed through the complex use of canes and internal abstract decoration thus reimagining the vessel as a three dimensional canvas. Yoshi Ohira’s inventive works in glass from the 1990s provide the culmination of this sensational collection and reinforce the thread of experimentation connecting all great art and design.
Born on Murano in 1892, Napoleone Martinuzzi was the son of an accomplished glass blower. He attended the Belle Arti in Venice and was part of the Ca’ Pezzaro Secessionist group where, in 1908, he began to exhibit his sculptures. Over the next decade Martinuzzi exhibited widely in Europe, eventually becoming one of Italy’s most influential Novecento sculptors.
In 1921 he became Director of the Murano Museum and in 1925, the Artistic Director at Venini. Martinuzzi’s bold use of experimental, semi-opaque glass (Pulegoso, Lattimo, Calcedonio) brought a new sculptural materialism to Murano. His use of large-scale forms from classical antiquity executed in vibrant colors set a new standard for Murano glass design.
In 1932 Martinuzzi left Venini to found his own firm, Zecchin-Martinuzzi. While the company only lasted for a few years, its highly refined production had a profound influence on Murano glass for decades to come. Between 1937 and 1947 Martinuzzi once again dedicated himself to sculpture. During the post-war period he returned to glass design and did notable works for several companies including Alberto Seguso’s Arte Vetro, Vetreria Cenedese, Alfredo Barbini and Pauly & C.
But the simple facts of Martinuzzi’s life fail to capture the lasting power of his work—his name alone evokes images of remote elegance and archetypal glory. A lasting tribute to this haute-grandeur can still be seen at the Vittoriale—poet Gabriele D’Annunzio’s lavish home and mausoleum where many of Martinuzzi’s formidable sculptures and monumental glass vessels still reside.
Auction Results Napoleone Martinuzzi