Demand has always been strong for early pieces of Venetian or façon de Venise (Venetian style glass made in other European countries, notably the Netherlands).
Prices have been rising in recent years but even by these standards the €153,000 (£133,045) paid for this rare drinking vessel in a sale held by the auction firm Ivoire St Etienne (25% buyer’s premium) in central France on September 15 is a substantial sum.
The 8in (20cm) high blown glass vessel is decorated in a style known as vetro a retorti featuring canes of white and transparent glass heated and blown into a striped pattern topped by a silver mount. It is dated to the 17th century and thought to originate from Amsterdam or Antwerp.
The silver mount comprises a dragon-like creature that serves both as a handle and a whistle topped by a wheel between two terms surmounted by a figure of a youthful Bacchus seated on top of a barrel. This elaborate mount enables the vessel to be used as an implement for an after-dinner drinking game. By blowing into the whistle the wheel is activated, letting out the liquid contents which have to be drunk in one draft.
There is a glass with a comparable dragon whistle in the Corning Museum of Glass in New York dated to c.1630 and another in the Landesmuseum Wurttemburg in Stuttgart but trick glasses like this from such an early period are rare.
The glass offered in St Etienne had the bonus of a long provenance back to the 19th century. It came from the descendants of Baron Jacques d’Assignies, to whom it had belonged from 1952 following the bequest of Viscount Joseph de Boislecomte. It came in a velvet-lined leather case along with manuscript notes.
The vessel had been estimated at €10,000-15,000 but generated interest from German, Dutch and Belgian bidders, propelling the final price to many times that figure, paid by a private collector from the Netherlands.