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Ercole Barovier: Murano glass visionary

NEW YORK – Not many companies have been in continuous operation for 750 years, but that enviable claim can be made by the Italian glassworks firm Barovier & Toso, founded in 1295 in Italy as Vetreria Artistica Barovier & Co. The enterprise is still going strong today, with the new name the result of a merger with the Toso family of Italy in the 1930s. Today the company is run by Angelo Barovier, the latest in a long line of Baroviers dating all the way back to 1295. It was Angelo’s father, Ercole Barovier (1889-1974), who left a major mark on the company and the entire glassworks industry.

Ercole Barovier mosaic vase Vetreria Artistica Barovier, Italy, circa 1925, clear glass with mosaic pattern of clear, cobalt, amethyst, and emerald, rim with gold flecking, mosaico vaso Murano. 9½in tall, est. $30,000-$50,000, sold for $112,500 at an auction held Jan. 1, 2018. Nadeau’s Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers image

Ercole Barovier was born in Murano, Italy, and also died there. He joined the family business as a partner in 1919 and in 1926 was named artistic director. He was more than just a businessman; he was an entrepreneur and artistic visionary. He invented the “heat coloring without fusion” technique and from the late 1920s until his retirement in 1972 he personally designed every significant glass object produced by the company – a portfolio that boasted over 25,000 designs. Ercole Barovier lights, glass and designs can be found in major museum collections worldwide.

Beginning in 1933, Barovier designed a number of vessels with unmelted pigment dispersed in thick, clear glass as decoration. In these, he incorporated references from nature, history and contemporary art – evidence of his genius. Embellished with expressive hot-work applications, some of his creations had soft organic forms inspired by sea life and the ever-changing effect of light on water. His A Mugnoni, Medusa and Lenti series share this naturalist aesthetic, combined with the feeling of monumental sculpture most associated with the late Italian Novecento style.

In the 1950s Barovier’s interest in ancient glass and primitive objects became apparent in the series Barbarico, Aborigeni and Neolitici.  During this time period, Barovier also made poetic reference to design motifs from classical antiquity through the use of tightly controlled geometric patterning resulting in the series Moreschi, Dorico, and Argo. The Intarsio series was composed of clear and brightly colored glass tesserae and shows the influence of Op-Art. Barovier’s many bestowed honors included being named Cavaliere del Lavoro by the Italian government in 1954.

Ercole Barovier Murano Venetian glass wedding studio art glass vase with a pinched gourd design with spotted panels of blue among flecks of gold all cased in clear glass, reminiscent of Native American wedding vessels, unsigned, 10¾in tall, good overall condition, est. $500-$1,500, sold for $2,880 at an auction held Dec. 12, 2018. Hill Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers image

So what is it about Barovier that explains the man’s success and the company’s longevity? “Color, color and color,” declared Shane Combs of Hill Auction Gallery in Sunrise, Florida. “Ercole Barovier was fearless. He wasn’t afraid to experiment with unknown formulas to create a new and exciting color. His vast knowledge of traditional techniques combined with emerging technological advances in glassmaking made for the perfect storm. Vibrant shades and artistic designs were executed with precision and elegance unsurpassed by many of his industry rivals.”

Combs said that with the rise in demand for fine midcentury modern furniture, there’s been a steady increase in the demand for decorative accessories. “Well educated consumers are seeking the best examples to accent their homes and as a long-term investment in an often-turbulent secondary market,” he pointed out. “The quiet and deceptively simple forms of Ercole Barovier vessels and their bold colors are perfect for the well curated interior.”

Rare Ercole Barovier Tessere polychrome murrine art glass vase, colorless, cylindrical form with fused murrines encompassing amethyst, teal and blue layered triangles, opal edges of the murrines, with original paper label stating ‘MARIO SANZOGNO,’ circa 1963, 9¾in tall, est. $5,000-$8,000, sold for $18,675 at an auction held Oct. 19, 2019. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates and LiveAuctioneers image

Chase Lanford of Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates in Mount Crawford, Virginia, said it’s important to recognize that Ercole Barovier descended from the legendary Barovier family in Murano. “This family had been working in glassmaking for generations before, and were already a well-recognized and respected firm,” he said. “Ercole grew up around glass and, like many in Murano, it was a way of life. I think really what makes Ercole Barovier such a revered artist is he is somewhat of a transitional figure – a studio artist before the movement ever really caught on.”

Lanford said it was Barovier’s unique merger of time-honored technique and the embracing of new technology that allowed him to push the limits of glass making and introduce a large audience to his work. “He also mastered murine construction and mosiac glassmaking, showing people the tremendous scope of color that only glass can provide,” Lanford remarked. “Glass is a medium that shows color in a unique way and Barovier showed the world a new rainbow of color. So, with him being a greatly skilled technician, having a great care of form, and expressing the latter with tremendous mosaics of color, are what brought Barovier such profound success.”

Ercole Barovier ‘Maternity’ series art glass figural sculpture, circa 1933, the stylized figure having a white lattimo glass body, with a blue/green opaque glass skirt accented with gold foil inclusions, 10½in tall, unsigned, est. $800-$1,200, sold for $1,260 at an auction held April 22, 2018. Clars Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers image

Cristina Campion of Clars Auction Gallery in Oakland, California, said Ercole Barovier has always been collected by both Italian glass afficianados and interior designers alike for decades, mainly because of his Modernist techniques. “His pieces really challenged and furthered technological advancements in glass making of the 1920s through ’60s,” she said. “One of my favorite examples is the Lenti series, which used clear glass pieces having highly textured surfaces. The large oval glass pieces would be fused together, and the vases often featured beautiful gilt inclusions. This style pairs well with any Modernist home.”

Karen Swager of Brunk Auctions in Asheville, North Carolina, agreed that people are attracted to Barovier’s innovative designs and techniques, developed and revised over his long career. “His work appeals to people on different levels,” Swager said. “Some collectors may seek out pieces from a certain period in his career. Others may be more interested in the technical aspects of his work, but all can enjoy the sheer beauty of the glass.  His art glass creations can be showcased in a room or gallery with fine art and antiques or complement midcentury modern décor.”

Pezzato bicolor glass vase, designed by Ercole Barovier for Barovier & Toso, blue and white tessere fused together, label on base, ‘Barovier & Toso/Murano/21518/Made in Italy,’ 17in tall, est. $4,000-$6,000, sold for $16,640 at an auction held May 17, 2019. Brunk Auctions and LiveAuctioneers image

With regard to market demand for Barovier’s work, Swager reviewed his auction records and determined the demand has been fairly consistent for the last five to ten years. “His early works from the Primavera series can bring record prices well over $100,000, but his later pieces from the 1950s and 1960s seem to bring more in $5,000 to $20,000 range,” she said. “The Pezzato bicolor vase we sold in May 2019 hammered at $13,000 with an estimate of $4,000-$6,000. In most cases, conservative estimates for Barovier’s glass have achieved higher results as I did notice some passed lots with steeper estimates. Like so many things in the antique and art markets, I suspect values for the rare and exceptional Barovier works will continue to climb and values for later examples produced during his career will continue to hold.”

Cristina Campion at Clars said that Italian Modern Design overall today is very popular. “Furniture designers such as Gio Ponti and Ico Parisi are quite collected,” she said. “As a result of this, Ercole Barovier’s pieces are highly sought-after as well. While styles may change over time, similar to the stock market, I foresee that renowned glassmakers like Barovier will always retain their inherent value.”

Ercole Barovier bowl, Italy, 1957, glass tesserae, iridized transparent glass, Incised signature and date to underside: ‘Ercole Barovier 1957,’ 3½in tall, est. $7,000-$9,000, sold for $13,000 at an auction held May 23, 2018. Wright and LiveAuctioneers image

Shane Combs at Hill Auction said the rarity of early Barovier glass has been underappreciated for years. “The rising demand for his early innovative pieces using mosaico or murrine construction are seeing record setting prices when presented at auction,” he said. “We’re likely to see rising prices for average pieces as the market expands. Museum quality examples are likely to emerge from estates as popular culture catches on to the trend.”

Jasper52 devotes online auction to Murano glass March 14

All the colors of magnificent Venice in the form of Murano glass artworks are presented in a Jasper52 online auction on Wednesday, March 14. Elegant vases, centerpieces, sculptures and jewelry are among the unique treasures in this sale.

Mosaic vase series created by Amedeo Rossetto for Eugenio Ferro glassworks, 2015, 44.5 cm high, 17.8 in. Estimate: $3,400-$3,800. Jasper52 image

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

Decorative Arts Highlighting the Lap of Luxury

The brilliance of Murano and Steuben art glass contrasts with fine bronze and spelter figures in this week’s curated decorative arts auction. Take a look at six stand out pieces in this collection.

The auction opens with Steuben glass that includes a rare 10-inch Art Deco vase of blue Aurene over yellow jade glass, shape #8491, which is estimated at $4,000-$6,000.

Steuben 10-inch art glass vase, circa 1925. Estimate: $4,000-$6,000 Jasper52 image

 

Murano selections include the affordable Sommerso hand-blown jar decanter in smoky blue, which changes color under fluorescent light. The jar is in the manner of the Cenedese company.

Murano Sommerso hand-blown glass container, 8¼ in. high. Estimate: $125-$175. Jasper52 image

 

Elegant glassware in the sale includes a German Art Nouveau liqueur set containing a decanter, four glasses and a matching silver tray.

German Art Nouveau liqueur set with tray. Estimate: $500-$750. Jasper52 image

 

A signed Pierre Chenet bronze figure of a charging bull is signed ‘P. Chenet’ and likely from the 20th century.

Pierre Chenet bronze, 11 x 16 x 5 inches, signed: P. Chenet. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500. Jasper52 image

 

Also estimated at $1,000-$1,500 is a Eugene Marioton spelter sculpture of a woman, which is titled La Reconnaissance est le souvenier du bienfait (translated: Gratitude is the recollection of kindness). The signed figure dates to the 1890s.

Eugéne Marioton spelter sculpture on marble base, 1890s, 22 in high. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500. Jasper52 image

 

Another affordable lot in the sale consists of two hand-painted Clyde Edward Gray (Texas/Illinois, 1907-1989), two signed painted porcelain tiles.

One of two painted porcelain tiles by Clyde Edward Gray (Texas / Illinois, 1907-1989), this size 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 and the other 4 ½ x 8 ½ in. Estimate: $100-$150. Jasper52 image

 

Peruse the full collection of decorative arts and bid on your favorite finds. 

 

How to Set Your Table in High Style

If your dining table is in need of a high-style makeover, this week’s Decorative Arts auction is just the place to look. Elegant crystal and porcelain from the finest European makers are featured in this highly curated collection. You’re destined to find an item or two (or three!) to glam up your home decor.

Stunning in cobalt blue is a set of six champagne flutes by Saint Louis of France. The glasses, which stand over 9 inches high, feature hand-cut “bubbles” on the side.

Six Saint Louis champagne flutes, hand cut and polished, 9 1/4 in. high, in the original box. Estimate: $750-$1,000. Jasper52 image

 

Murano art glass is well represented in the auction, topped by a tall Dino Martens “Bianca Nera” vase, which was developed in 1954 for Aureliano Toso.

Murano art glass vase by Dino Martens, 1954, for Aureliano Toso, 12 in. high x 7 in. diameter. Estimate: $700-$1,000. Jasper52 image

 

A Murano hand-blown cornucopia designed by Archimede Seguso features bright cranberry glass with gold flecks.

Murano hand-blown cranberry pink and gold flecks Italian art glass cornucopia documented to designer Archimede Seguso, 5 in. long x 4 1/2 in. high x 3 1/2 in wide. Estimate: $100-$200. Jasper52 image

 

Standing at nearly a foot tall, this Gustave Gillot bronze sculpture of a woman and a fox has the auction’s high estimate at $1,000-$1,500.

Gustave Gillot bronze bronze sculpture of a woman with a fox, 11 3/4 in. high x 12 1/8 in. wide x 3 in. deep. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500. Jasper52 image

 

A nice selection of beautifully painted plates is in the auction, including an ornate pair of Limoges cabinet plate. One depicts a courting scene while the other depicts a trio of women attending another woman.

Pair of Limoges porcelain portrait cabinet plates, artist signed, approximately 11 in. diameter. Estimate: $500-$700. Jasper52 image

 

A 19th-century hand-painted Sevres plate that pictures a young couple and a monk has an iridescent teal border and scalloped rim decorated in raised floral gilt. It is marked Sevres on the reverse.

Sevres France hand-painted plate, interior courting scene, approximately 10 in. diameter. Estimate: $600-$800. Jasper52 image

 

Other hand-painted plates in the auction are done by Royal Viena, Dresden and Quimper. Take a look at the full collection and enjoy the high-quality shopping.