Art is history. It provides us with a rare glimpse into the past and how it fits into the present. Whether in a glass case in a museum or hanging on the walls of someone’s home, art provides a rare glimpse at the bridging of gaps between time and storytelling.

On December 14, Bonhams Modern Decorative Art + Design will feature two historical sales, the first will feature Italian masterpieces by Osvaldo Borsani, Carlo Mollino, Fausto Melotti and more. The auction will showcase over 150 works featuring rare designs of furniture, glass, and ceramics from the most sought-after Italian designers of the 20th century. Following that sale will be a once in a lifetime collection from the Cenedese archive in Murano, Italy.

Osvaldo (1911-1985) and Valeria Borsani, Unique Occasional Table, 1971 (estimate $20,000-30,000)

There are several rare pieces that highlight this sale of exquisite Italian craftsmanship, however, the Unique Occasional Table by Osvaldo and Valeria Borsani brings together creative geometrics and functionality. Viewed as one of Borsani’s last great designs, the table is essentially one folded sheet of steel that doubles as both support and surface. Taking the X motif from the console tables but rendering it in the negative leaves just half of the X outline to carry the split oval top, creating one functional item with multiple uses. This conversation piece would be the highlight of any room.


LEFT: Fausto Melotti (1901-1986), Vaso Pavone, circa 1955 (estimate: $15,000-20,000)
RIGHT: Fausto Melotti (1901-1986), Coppa, circa 1950 (estimate: $15,000-20,000)

This sale also draws together rarely-seen works, featuring seminal pieces of Italian design including a group of ten glazed stoneware sculptures by renowned artist Fausto Melotti. Additional highlights in this sale include three pivoting doors by Carlo Mollino, believed to be Mollino’s earliest and most accomplished interior design works for the house of Ada and Cesare Minola. Within each panel there are six triangular frosted glass sheets, giving a nod to the Japanese use of paper screens, allowing both natural and artificial light to become diffused.


LEFT: Claude Lalanne (Born 1924), Unique Structure Végétal aux Papillans Chandelier, 1998 (estimate: $150,000-250,000)
CENTER: Louis Majorelle (1859-1926) and Jacques Gruber (1870-1936) Important Monnaie du Pape Ceiling Light from the Villa Majorelle, 1901, wrought iron, tinted and opalescent glass (estimate: $60,000-80,000)
RIGHT: Stanislav Libensky (1921-2002), Jaroslava Brychtová (Born 1921) Early Imprint of an Angel, 1997, cast glass (estimate: $70,000-90,000)

One of the most extravagant pieces up for sale is the unique and monumental ceiling light for Arredoluce, created by the seminal Lebanese architect and artist Sami El-Khazim for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. After its debut at the fair, the piece was acquired by The Shah of Iran to be used in his palace dining room. The fixture was later sent to the Arredoluce factory in Monza where it was re-engineered into its present form. Then, Czechoslovakian-based husband-and-wife team, Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová’s “Early Imprint of an Angel” comes from a final chapter of works from the artists that featured a small number of technically masterful, large-scale creations in cast glass that focused on themes of the human spirit and our “inner-light.” One final highlight from the sale is an influential ceiling light designed and produced by Louis Majorelle for use in his own home, Villa Majorelle, Nancy. The villa features a paramount theme of monnaie du pape flowers in the design of its fixtures, as well as its furnishings. This motif is also displayed notably in other aspects of the home, including two windows in the stairwell, which incorporates glass by Jacques Gruber.

Sami El-Khazim, Unique Torciere della Cultura Ceiling Light, 1964-65 (estimate: $30,000-50,000)

Following the aforementioned sale, Bonhams will also be hosting Fire & Light: A Selection of Highlights from the Cenedese Archive, a collection of over 150 glass designs from the Cenedese workshop of Murano, Italy. Many of these works have never been seen in public and are making their debut at auction for the very first time. The wonderful thing about this sale is that it presents opportunities for new and established collectors, with estimates ranging from $3,000 – $20,000.


LEFT: Gino Cenedese (1907-1973) And Antonio Da Ros (1936-2012), Important Vetri Sommersi Contrappunto Sasso Exhibition Vase, 1960 (estimate: $15,000-20,000)
CENTER: Alfredo Barbini, (1912-2007) Mano, 1948 (estimate: $10,000-15,000)
RIGHT: Antonio Da Ros (1936-2012), Rare Large Clessidra a Tronco di Cono Vase, 1964 (estimate: $4,000-6,000)

The Cenedese company was founded in 1946 by Gino Cenedese and became one of the premier workshops on the island of Murano during its creative renaissance, which brought incredible acclaim to the firm. Founding partners of the firm included glass maestros, Alfred Barbini, Gino Fort, Angelo Tosi and Pietro Scaramal. These artists produced some of the most engaging works of their careers during this time, which led to commercial and international acclaim. Through the years the firm earned many accolades, starting with the XXVI Venice Biennale in 1948.

This auction features extraordinary examples by masters Napoleone Martinuzzi, Ermanno Nason, Alfredo Barbini and Antonio da Ros. Pieces by Alfredo Barbini and Antonio da Ros, included the very first example of his iconic hand-blown submerged glass ‘Momento’ series to be produced that received commendation at the 1960 Venice Biennale, as well as three hand-worked sculptural acid treated “corosso” works by Alfredo Barbini that achieved huge success at the 1948 Venice Biennale. Glassworks from the family company are still made, to this day, in the original workshop.


LEFT: Vetreria Gino Cenedese (Founded 1946), Unique Sammersa Vase, 1963 (estimate: $4,000-6,000)
CENTER: Alfredo Barbini (1912-2007), Unique Busto Maschile, 1948 (estimate: $7,000-9,000)
RIGHT: Napoleone Martinuzzi (1892-1977), Unique Base Lampada Scavo, 1953-58 (estimate: $4,000-6,000)

Between these two auctions, connoisseurs and collectors of unique and notable artwork will be able to find pieces that speak to their tastes and fill their artistic void. Both auctions will be taking place at Bonhams in New York City at 580 Madison Avenue with the first auction beginning at 10:30am and the second at 2:00pm. Specialists for these auctions are Benjamin Walker, who is head of the Modern Decorative Art + Design department and director, Dan Tolson. You can view the Modern Decorative Art + Design catalog here, as well as the Cenedese Archive catalog here.

Benjamin Walker (left) and Dan Tolson (right)

Sale Modern Decorative Art + Design, Cenedese Archive
Address 508 Madison Avenue, New York
Date December 14, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. ET and 2:00 p.m. ET
Specialist Benjamin Walker and Dan Tolson