A Carlo Scarpa Vase Found in a Thrift Store Just Made More Than $100,000 at Auction

The seller found it on a high shelf in a Goodwill in Richmond, Virginia.

Carlo Scarpa, Rare Pennellate vase, model 3664, Venini, Italy (ca. 1947). Courtesy Wright Auction House.

When Jessica Vincent, who raises polo ponies on a farm outside Richmond, Virginia, was shopping at a Goodwill store in that city, she likely had no idea she might come upon a rare and perfectly intact glass vase by a renowned Italian designer that would fetch six figures at auction—but that’s exactly what happened. 

That vase, the so-called “Pennellate” vase or Model 3664, by famed architect and designer Carlo Scarpa (1906–78) hit the block on December 13 at Wright Auction House, tagged with an estimate of $30,000–$50,000. It sold for $107,100. 

“It’s an amazing story, that this very sophisticated piece of glass finds its way to Virginia,” said Richard Wright, founder of the auction house, in a phone interview. “It was expensive, not mass-produced, and it falls through the cracks all the way down to the Goodwill. It’s not even chipped.”

He added: “And this very charming woman who raises polo ponies finds it, and she isn’t sure what she’s found but she’s smart enough to do her research. She finds the Italian glass group on Facebook, and is smart enough not to sell it for the first offer she gets, of $10,000.”

Standing about 13½-inches high, the object dates from about 1947 and is made with pieces of applied opaque and transparent glass that mimic brushstrokes across the glass’s surface (pennellate means brushstroke in Italian). Scarpa designed it for the Italian art glass maker Venini, located on the Venetian island of Murano.

Wright Auction House described the vessel as one of the rarest pieces the house has offered in a decade of auctions, and in fact only one other vase with this exact color combination is known to exist, in what the house calls an established private collection. The vase was included in its “Important Italian Glass” sale, which also offered examples by designers including Ercole Barovier, Tomaso Buzzi, and Dino Martins.

Carlo Scarpa, Rare Pennellate vase, model 3664, Venini, Italy, (ca. 1947) (detail). Courtesy Wright Auction House.

The current auction high for a Scarpa vase is also a Venini piece, a Laccati Neri e Rossi from 1940 that fetched about $309,000 at Christie’s Paris in 2012, soaring past its high estimate of about $64,000, according to the Artnet Auction Price Database.

Trained as an architect and designer, Scarpa is known for his architectural renovations, his glass, and his industrial design.  He has come in for a renewed round of attention in recent years, for example in an exhibition organized by contemporary sculptor Carol Bove and pairing her own work with his, at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, England and at Museion in Bolzano, Italy.

Venini Glass by Carlo Scarpa: The Venini Company, 1932-1947” appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013–14. It was while working with Venini, the museum said, that Scarpa “redefined the parameters of glassblowing in terms of aesthetics and technical innovation.” He created two dozen styles of vases, “pioneering techniques, silhouettes and colors that thoroughly modernized the ancient tradition of glassblowing.” In the 1930s and 1940s, their collaborations were on display at venues including the Milan Triennale and the Venice Biennale. 

 

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