A Dame and Murrine
By the early 1950s, Paolo Venini was planning a new group of murrine vessels. Drawing inspiration from his collaborations with Carlo Scarpa in the 1930s, Venini would design three distinct series (A Dame, 1953, Mezzaluna, 1954, A Puntini, 1957) all executed in reduced forms and composed of densely packed murrines. This juxtaposition of simplicity and complexity was enhanced by the use of rich, contrasting colors which served to amplify the overall visual patterning and would become the signature of these series. Although murrines had been used in glass design since ancient times, Venini’s conception was something new and could only have been realized in the dynamic period of reinvention which took place in Italy during the postwar years.
The black and red vase presented here may be unique, and is one of the finest examples of A Dame known.
A Dame means checkered in the Venetian dialect, and in this series we see vessels composed of tiny squares of contrasting color. Checkered patterns have always played a part in traditional Venetian design, often in reference to the costumes worn by harlequins in the Commedia dell’Arte tradition, and A Dame is certainly a nod to Venetian Culture. Venini exhibited a group of A Dame vases in the Biennale of 1954, and although they created a sensation, ultimately very few examples were made, likely due to the technical difficulty and high cost of their production. Today A Dame vessels have become icons of postwar Italian design. With sober forms and dynamic patterning they capture the exuberance and enthusiasm of the postwar years, both referencing the past and offering something new and visually exciting. The black and red vase presented here may be unique, and is one of the finest examples of A Dame known.
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.
Paolo Venini was born in Cusano, Italy on January 12, 1895 to a middle class Lombard family. As a young man he studied law in Milan. During the first war he was stationed near Venice where he became fascinated with the glass mosaics and stained glass of St. Mark’s cathedral. After the war he began a law practice but soon came under the influence of Venetian art and antiquities dealer Giacomo Cappellin who convinced the young Venini to join him as a business partner in a new Murano glass enterprise in 1921. Since then it has become almost impossible to discuss the life of Paolo Venini as separate from his company—all the available biographical material about him lacks personal detail and inevitably lists towards the celebrated history of the company. Venini’s biography is, therefore, the story of a man whose literal personality has been subsumed by his professional life and persona.
Auction Results Paolo Venini