Wright to auction preeminent Italian glass collection May 23

Ercole Barovier, Intarsio vase, Barovier & Toso, Italy, 1961-63, fused glass tesserae in five colors with controlled air bubbles, 10.5 w. x 5.25 d. x 13.5 h. in. Estimate: $30,000–$40,000. Wright image

CHICAGO – On May 23, Wright will present one of the most important private collections of postwar Italian glass ever assembled. Built by a Chicago couple, the collection of over 100 works features important pieces by Paolo Venini, Ercole Barovier and Dino Martens and captures the innovation and spirit that define postwar Murano glass. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

In the 1950s and ’60s glass designers, inspired by the use of vivid colors and strong patterning found in the expressionist painting, op-art and graphic design of the day, devoted themselves to the exploration of modern art expressed in glass.

A masterwork of design by Thomas Stearns stands as the highlight of the collection. La Sentinella di Venezia (below), 1962, is a unique sculptural work with only one other variant in existence. Conceived by Stearns as a tribute to Venice and Murano, it is a tour-de-force of imagination and expression, perfectly reflecting the American artist’s experience on the island of Murano. For two years, beginning in 1960, Stearns worked at Venini challenging the master blowers with his experimental and complex designs. Teaming with the young and talented blower, “Checco” Ungaro, Stearns created a small body of distinctly original glass pieces. Stearns’ works, though few in number, are understood today to be some of the most important produced in the history of Murano glass. La Sentinella di Venezia offered in this sale is the rarest Stearns work ever to come to market.

Thomas Stearns, La Sentinella do Venezia, Venini, Italy, 1962, fused, incised and free blown glass with murrine and vertical inciso work, 6 w. x 4.75 d. x 22 h. in. Estimate: $300,000–$500,000. Wright image

“Reluctantly closing the end of my two years at Venini, I was urged to foster one last token of my efforts—a salute—as well as an omen you might say—one’s own metaphysical format of delight and despair, smile and tears. As it were, the Sentinels of Venice were wed … a collective of fascination, wonderment, chagrin, piety and apathy for my beloved acquired home, Venice.”—Thomas Stearns

Dino Martens, Geltrude vase, model 5299, Aureliano Toso, Italy,1954, internally decorated polychrome patchwork glass with copper inclusions, pinwheel and filigrana, 7.25 dia. x 12 h. in. Estimate: $30,000–$40,000. Wright image

This quintessential postwar collection focuses on works by Fulvio Bianconi for Venini, Ercole Barovier for Barovier & Toso and Dino Martens for Aureliano Toso. Both comprehensive and extraordinary, the collection tells the story of glass design of the 1950s and ’60s—a vibrant and fertile period for Murano. This private collection perfectly reflects the owners’ passion for the art, design and architecture of the postwar period.

Fulvio Bianconi, Con Macchie vase, model 4324, Venini, Italy,1950, glass with abstract internal decoration and lightly iridized surface, 10.5 w. x 6 d. x 9.25 h. in. Estimate: $90,000–$120,000. Wright image

Highlights of the sale include an extraordinary Con Macchie vase designed by Fulvio Bianconi for Venini and originally owned by Kitty Baldwin Weese, co-founder of the renowned Baldwin Kingrey Gallery in Chicago. The Venini portion of the sale also features an encyclopedic collection of Bianconi’s iconic Pezzati, Spichhi and Fasci works. An outstanding and comprehensive group of geometric designs by Ercole Barovier includes some of the rarest examples, most notably an unrivaled and monumental five-color Intarsio vase. Important works by Dino Martens for Aureliano Toso include a rare and exceptionally beautiful Oriente Geltrude vase as well as several examples from the Eldorado series, and a rare undulating Sirventese vase.

Carlo Scarpa, Murrine Opache plate, Venini, Italy, 1962, fused glass murrine with wheel-carved surface, 12.25 w. x 9.5 d. x 2 h. in. Estimate: $40,000–$60,000. Wright image

Important Italian Glass: A Private Chicago Collection will be presented at auction on May 23 at noon Central Time.