paperweights: John Gentile

John Gentile (1923-2006) was born into a glassmaking family. He became a giant in the world of glass paperweights. The glass business started by his father, Pietro, in 1947 in Star City, West Virginia, catered to the tourist trade and therefore produced mass quantities of inexpensive simple weights, but over the decades that John Gentile worked with glass he honed his paperweight skills and produced some very nice, interesting, and technically challenging paperweights. They tend to be nicely finished. He was one of the first American paperweight artists to incorporate snakes and lizards. He worked with lampworker Henry C. Johnson who made the snakes and whatnot that John encased in glass. John certainly made many thousands of weights over his career and his highly developed skills are evident in his work. Most of his canes, however, were made in Murano and purchased by the barrel. I recently acquired a set of six John Gentile weights from an old collection. The collector took good notes regarding the makers which I have found to be entirely accurate even down to some pretty obscure glassmakers from the 60s and 70s, so even though not each of these is signed, I feel they are properly attributed. They also match his weights in American Glass Paperweights and Their Makers by Jean Melvin (1967 which was the year I started college) where they are featured prominently with a full chapter for the Gentile Family. The condition of these is remarkable, almost as if you just picked them up in John’s store in West Virginia on a hot, windless summer day with a tiny bit of shelf wear or a few light scratches. As you step out into the dry dusty parking lot, colorful plastic flags flapping as tourist bait, the dry breeze sucks you dry and you head for the soda pop stand. It appears they were collected by a collector from the beginning and sat in a display case for half a century. They also appear to be high end insofar as complexity, quality, and perfection, as a collector would select. Frit flying birds, crimp flowers, and frit butterflies were some of his high end staples. The best of his work is super good and is crucial in any collection of American makers. This vintage of Gentile weights in this quality is difficult to obtain.

PW2972. John Gentile Magnum Museum Piece. Three Color Swirl with Controlled Bubbles. There is something particularly elegant about this piece, as if you might expect to see it sitting on a large wooden desk in a rich library with leather furniture and framed charts on the walls. Condition is excellent – just picked off the shelf at John’s store. It’s a hot day and you are now drinking a cold wet bottle of RC Cola. This weight has a ground polished pontil and is unsigned. 3 1/2 inches tall; 3 1/8 inches in diameter; one pound and eleven ounces.  $35

PW2973. John Gentile Magnum Museum Piece. Six Huge Controlled Bubbles over red and white explosion. Very large and heavy weight with one center bubble surrounded by five more. Quite stunning. Condition is excellent. This weight has a ground polished pontil and is unsigned. 3 1/4 inches tall; 3 3/8 inches in diameter; one pound and twelve ounces.  $35

PW2974. John Gentile Museum Piece. A great idea for a glass paperweight! The colored glass that comprises the flowers and the cushion were dug from the trash heaps of the old Sandwich Glass factory on Cape Cod. Condition is excellent. This weight has a ground polished pontil and is unsigned as far as I can tell because I don’t want to remove the sticker. 2 3/4 inches tall; 3 1/16 inches in diameter; one pound and six ounces.  $40

PW2975. John Gentile Museum Piece. Blue Frit Flower. This weight has a ground polished pontil and is unsigned.  2 5/8 inches tall; 3 3/16 inches in diameter; one pound and six ounces.  $35