Monday, May 8, 2017


Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've heard about conspiracy theorists who believe that UFOs landed in "Area 51," an air force base about 150 miles from Las Vegas. And I admit that the existence of Vegas at all is enough to convince me that aliens have been here and they are probably ruled by either Cher or Celine Dion. 

And I don't buy all that baloney about aliens being fake news or alternative facts. In fact, I'm quite sure that our earth has been colonized by extraterrestrials. But I believe that it happened way before the 1950s and I'm not stupid enough to think they settled in Las Vegasit's common knowledge they hate the heat, the tourists, excess neon and Mylar, and the constant parties hosted by the omnipresent alien-like Kardashians. My theory is that yes, they're here on Earth, but they settled far from the Vegas strip and arrived more than 900 years ago. Where'd they pick to land? Not so strangely, on a safe little group of islands, the largest one reminding them so much of Venus that they named it Venice (in addition to Murano, which translates as Moronsville in Venutian). Need more proof? Just take a look at Venetian mirrors. They are nothing short of out of this world!

Venetian (also pronounced "Veh-NEW-shun," by those who share my belief in Italian aliens from Venus) mirrors come in a shocking variety of shapes (oval, rectangular, octagonal, and shapes that don't have names yet, they're so otherworldly) and colors. Take this incomparable one of a pair we've sold:

Sold: An Important Late 17th-Early 18th C. Venetian
Polychrome-Japanned, Mother-of-Pearl Inlaid and Giltwood Mirror

In their most common form, antique Venetian mirrors are all mercury glass, typically etched with delicate rosettes, bouquets, figures, and even landscape scenes. More ornate Venetian mirrors are accented with chinoiserie lacquers and adorned with brilliantly colored mirrored accents (e.g., sparkling cobalt blue, plum purple, cathedral super-saturated reds, etc. WOW!) . Other Venetian mirrors mix etched glass with ornately carved and gilded wood. And some exceedingly rare ones are inset with mother-of-pearl and semi-precious stones.

But even without the inset stones, mother-of-pearl, and assorted embellishments (that make the mirrors look like the hors d'oeuvres at the Goldstein bar mitzvah in Encino last Saturday), the etched ones can be otherworldly. Witness this palazzo-scaled and incredibly rare pair: 

Now available as a single: An Extraordinary and Glittering Pair of 18th C. Venetian Cut Crystal Palazzo Mirrors

Each of these mirrors was created by a team of skilled craftsmen, including a carpenter who carved the mirror's wood sub-structure, artists who poured and polished the mercury to create the mirror surface, a glass cutter who created the etched glass plates and adhered them to the mirror surface, an engraver, and a variety of other artists who prepared additional decorative embellishments (e.g., blown glass appliqués or cut stones). Each member of the team utilized techniques that were carefully guarded secrets and honed over centuries by artists in Venice and Murano, Italy. But aliens can be barbaric. Get this: any glass maker who tried to leave Murano island (see below) would get a very special going away gift: they'd have their hands cut off (and I'm not making this upso it's important to remember this BuzzRule: DON'T MESS WITH ALIENS).

In Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection (2003), Mark Pendergrast explains that Venetian artisans first learned to craft glass objects in the 11th century, from the German and Islamic merchants who visited their bustling trade hub peddling all sorts of luxury items from all corners of the world.

By the end of the 13th century, the Venetian glass industry had become so prolific and respected that to protect their city from the fires of their innumerable glass blowing furnaces, and to protect themselves from vicious industrial espionage, all of the glassblowers were forced to move their studios to guess where? Murano! Oh joy! All I can think of is that the industry of cutting off hands must have boomed even more than the glass business.

each with a pair of scarlet Murano glass candleholders at the base

No. 3802 A Pair of 18th C. Giltwood and Etched Looking Glass Venetian Mirrors

No. 1867 A 19th Century Oval Venetian Mirror

While the Venetian glass artists were paid top-notch salaries and mingled with nobility, they were also heavily penalized for trying to branch out and leave their isolated island community. Essentially imprisoned, they became ever more specialized. Having very little else to do and no real choice in the matter, their children and children’s children learned to blow glass. Generations of Barbinis, Briatis, Bertolinis, La Mottas, etc. dedicated themselves to the art of glass making and continuously improved upon their forefathers' techniques.

Sold: A Pair of 18th Century Venetian Mirrors

In the mid-15th century, the Berovieros discovered a technique for creating cristallo, or colorless, transparent glass using ash from sea plants, rich in potassium oxide and magnesium, perfect for protecting the mirror surface. In 1507, the del Gallos patented a technique for adhering the glass sheets to the mirror surface using weights and varnish, ensuring that the mirror plates would be consistently bubble-free. In 1540, Redor perfected a technique for leveling and shining the glass sheets, so they'd be perfectly flat and clean-cut. Others developed techniques for altering the tone of the glass plate itself, inserting gold leaf into the glass before it solidified, or using lead to color it a translucent milky-white, to incredible effect. And so on and so forth!

No. 2760 A Pair of Early 19th C. Venetian Parcel Gilt Mirrors

These ever-more-impressive Venetian mirrors became sought after by both Italian and French nobility (read: taste-makers), especially King Francois I and his son King Henri II, who was married to Catherine de Medici. In the late 16th century, Queen Marie de Medici ordered 119 custom Venetian mirrors directly from Murano to line the walls of her office. As a token of their appreciation, the Murano artisans gifted her with a lavish mirror encrusted with precious stones, the perfect gift for a woman who truly had everything.

Sold: No. 4566 A Glittering 18th C. Venetian Colbalt Blue Glass and Parcel Gilt Mirror

No. 3481 An Important Pair of Early 18th C. Giltwood and Polychrome Venetian Mirrors

Sold: A Sublime 18th C. Rectangular Venetian Etched Mirror,
richly decorated with detailed paste-colored flowers

According to Pendergrast, “at the beginning of the sixteenth century, a Venetian mirror in an elaborate silver frame was valued at 8,000 pounds, nearly three times the contemporary price of a painting by Raphael.” Given that some works by Raphael are currently valued at upwards of fifty million dollars, the mirrors we have at C. Mariani are downright bargains.

Sold: A Magnificent Glittering 19th C. Venetian
Cut Crystal Palazzo Mirror

Just take a look at this magnificent Venetian 18th c. mirror that we just got in at C. Mariani. Call me for details:


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