NEW YORK — The legacy of Italian art glass, which arose from centuries-old Venetian glassblowing techniques, continues with contemporary glass masters who take ancient traditions and meld them with innovative, modern approaches. Among a new generation of artisans following in the steps of Paolo Venini, Archimede Seguso, Carlo Scarpa and Lino Tagliapietra is Dante Marioni (American, b. 1964-).
Marioni is the son of pioneering American studio glass artisan Paul Marioni, and first took up a glass blowpipe at the age of nine. Later, he studied at Washington’s famous Pilchuck Glass School and learned from Tagliapietra and the late Benjamin Moore. Marioni developed his own signature style, and is well known for works boasting vivid colors and classical but whimsically interpreted forms.
In a 2021 exhibition at Traver Gallery of his pieces which explore optics and patterns, the gallery wrote on its website that Marioni’s passion lies in his process: “He has continued to challenge himself throughout the years, designing pieces that stretch his skills to the limit and challenge our conception of contemporary glass.”
His reticello designs, for example, are among his most sophisticated glass works, showing his mastery of the medium. Having experimented with a range of techniques during the course of two decades, he often makes tall pieces with surface decoration, such as the mosaic-like murrine or reticello, which features a net pattern created by air bubbles introduced inside the glass cane. A 24½in reticello vase Marioni made in 2000 brought $2,800 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2022 at Rago Arts and Auction Center.
Suzanne Perrault, president and modern glass specialist at Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville, Pennsylvania, said Marioni started his career in glass at such a young age that he is “part of the very foundations of glass-blowing in this country, very steeped in the Venetian techniques, which he absorbed from Benjamin Moore and Richard Marquis, among others, before customizing them to his highly personal artistic style.”
Whether you collect art glass or not, Marioni’s thoughtful approach to design is immediately evident, even at a glance. “You cannot help but be attracted to Dante’s Classical forms,” she said. “I can’t see anyone just not being seduced by them.”
Among Marioni’s most celebrated works are his series of trios of glass works in contrasting, saturated colors that play off each other in a striking manner. A yellow and blue trio from 1996, the tallest among them standing 33 ½in high, earned $8,500 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2019 at Rago Arts and Auction Center. “These trios were made in different colors and the yellows, blues and reds are most popular,” Perrault said. “They also come up on the secondary market in different configurations. A triple is very desirable and rarest, but the number of collectors who have the necessary space to display three instead of one or two is smaller.” A two-piece grouping in this 1996 series in red and blue also realized $8,500 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2017 at Rago.
Marioni’s work tends to be large and always makes a statement. “There’s no small Dante, but there is a wide variety of techniques. Some collectors will be drawn to the pure expanse of color blown in the modernist shapes; others will prefer the intricacy of the Venetian techniques,” she said. “There is no boring surface or experience with these pieces.”
A long-standing artistic Marioni motif is a series he calls Leaves. A fine early example is Black-Blue with Yellow, a 2009 tall-shouldered piece having an ovoid form that made $10,000 plus the buyer’s premium in June 2020 at Neal Auction Company. Standing an impressive 36 ½in tall, it features a central yellow stripe bisecting the all-over swirling blue latticini pattern. These sculptures are not intended to evoke the leaves found in nature, but rather the stylized forms that are a favorite in the decorative arts. Marioni is fond of using cane-working techniques he figured out himself to create patterns in clear glass that layer on one another or intersect to create a moire effect. An even earlier example from the series, a cobalt-colored Leaf vessel from 1998 standing 31in tall, realized $2,500 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2017 at MBA Seattle Auction.
A favorite form with early Marioni aficionados were his Whopper vessels, which debuted in his first sell-out gallery show in Seattle in 1987, when he was 19. These vessels presaged his interest in tall forms and featured a two-color style that earned him a Louis Comfort Tiffany fellowship. A 1993 Whopper with a deep pink body and a shoulder and rim with a more violet hue brought $5,000 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2017 at Habitat Galleries. It was blown free-form by a handpipe, and measures 28in tall.
Marioni has said it’s the artistic process of glassblowing instead of the result that most interests him. Collectors may be disinclined to agree, though, and they are only too happy to gaze upon the fruits of his labor, which they use to beautify their homes.