Treasure: Glass art by Bonato ready for a new home

Khristi Zimmeth

When it comes to art evaluation, provenance often makes a difference in price. Don Sobieski remembers buying the unusual contemporary piece at J.L. Hudson’s in 1970. The piece of glass art is identified on the back in German as the work of Victor Bonato, a German artist who was born in 1934.

“I used to have it hanging but haven’t displayed it in years,” Sobieski told appraiser Richard Fedorowicz of DuMouchelles at a recent appraisal session held downtown at the auction house. “It’s a pretty typical work by this artist,” Fedorowicz informed him, adding that Bonato trained as a glass painter and that between 1956 and 1961 he studied mural painting in Cologne as well as several years studying stained glass in the U.S. Sobieski’s piece dates to 1969. An internet search shows seven works for sale, many similar, the most recently completed in 2004.

Fedorowicz said that Bonato is definitely a known artist, but that there are few sales results in the U.S., which makes appraising the piece harder. There are results in German and Austrian auction houses, but none in the U.S., he told him. “Prices are all over the map. That means the prices I find are a bit skewed. But we could definitely sell it for you even if we’d want to do a little more research on the artist and what he brings at auction.”

Fedorowicz said that the intriguing piece is “typical of his style,” but mentioned that a similar one didn’t sell at auction a few years back for its $2,100 estimate. “That just means it didn’t sell for that price, not that it wouldn’t sell,” he told him. He added that there was one that sold for $5,000 that was double the size of Sobieski’s. While it had the same “dimples” in the glass, he said it wasn’t a true indicator of what Sobieski’s piece could bring at auction, adding that somewhere around $1,000 seems to be a more common price point at auctions around the world and a better indication of what he’d probably get should he decide to part with it. “I’m thinking we’d put it up at auction with an estimate of $500-$1,000 to encourage bidding,” said the appraiser.

Fedorowicz said downtown Hudson’s had a solid reputation for selling quality art, and that this piece is an example of that. Sobieski remembers the downtown store fondly. “Those were the days, huh?” he asked the appraiser. He says his interior designer at the time, who worked at Hudson’s, sold it to him for $171.

While he has good memories of the store and the piece, he’s ready to part with it now that he hasn’t had it displayed for some time.

“As much as I like it, I’d ultimately like to sell it,” Sobieski said. “It’s nice, but it doesn’t really go with our decor anymore.” After hearing the appraisal, he decided to leave the piece at DuMouchelles for a future auction. “We’ve had it hanging long enough,” Sobieski told Fedorowicz. “It’s time for it to find a new home.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item : Victor Bonato glass art

Submitted by : Don Sobieski

Appraised by : Richard Fedorowicz, DuMouchelles

Estimated value: $500-$1,000 at auction