Bought for $3.99 from a Virginia Thrift Store, sold for over $100,000 at Auction

Monday, December 18, 2023
Bought for $3.99 from a Virginia Thrift Store, sold for over $100,000 at Auction

Carlo Scarpa designed the Pennellate series for Venini in 1942 and pieces from this series are exceptionally rare to see. The technique itself—Pennellate meaning brushstroke—was achieved by adding colored opaque glass to the vase as it was being blown, and dragging the material around the circumference of the piece until the level of desired transparency was achieved.

It is known that Scarpa worked closely with the blowers at Venini and his ability to communicate his ideas seems no more apparent than in this series—one in which the concept of a vase as canvas is in full view. The series is very well documented and we know that vases of many forms were made in this technique. However, the production numbers are very low—likely because the pieces were so difficult to make. 

In the exhibition Carlo Scarpa at Venini which took place in Venice in 2012 (and later traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art), a chapter is devoted to this series and two vases in the form seen here are included but in another color variation, signed similarly with a three-line acid stamp. We know of only one other example in this form and color combination, which resides in a private collection. Unfortunately, there are many false pieces of Carlo Scarpa’s work in the world, but to see and feel a genuine example is a revelation and pleasure beyond description.

Jessica Vincent with her partner, Naza.

Adding to the excitement of this masterwork is the story of how this vase came to auction. This Pennellate was discovered by Jessica Vincent in Richmond Virginia during one of her weekly visits to the antique and thrift shops in the area. As Jessica tells it, she was browsing her local Goodwill when a vase sitting on a high shelf caught her eye. The aisle was crowded with people, so she waited a few minutes before she took the piece in hand, turned it over, and discovered the signature. Once home, Jessica showed her partner Naza the vase, prompting him to ask, “Why did you buy a piece of painted glass?” Of course, Pennellate means brushstroke in Italian, and we think Scarpa would have been pleased with this misunderstanding. Jessica and her partner raise polo ponies on a farm outside of Richmond. She has always loved art and antiques, and recalls going to tag sales and thrift stores with her mother from an early age. Self-described as a “Maximalist”, Jessica admits that her collection of art and objects is now somewhat vast. She was of course shocked to discover what she had found at Goodwill that day, and we in turn were stunned as well.

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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