I spotted it from five feet away. It was sitting on a low table, alongside a plastic Christmas mug and some costume jewelry.
“Oh my gosh, I found my treasure!” I crowed to my sister-in-law. She had just been wondering aloud who would find the best treasure that day at the flea market.
“Sssshhh!” she warned me. Oh yeah, if the seller knew how badly I wanted this ashtray, she might jack up the price.
“How much?” I asked the widely smiling woman as she looked up at me.
You bet I pulled out my bag of quarters as quickly as I could before she could change her mind or before some other Venetophile saw this vintage Harry’s Bar ashtray and swooped in to rip it from my hands!
I looked it up on the interwebs later and discovered a number of different versions of this ashtray on Pinterest–monochromatic, pale yellow, rose-colored, deep green, or aqua blue. I didn’t see another one quite like mine and am guessing that these ashtrays might have been individually hand-painted. I saw a few on eBay priced at 399 euros, around $477.
Apparently this ashtray was designed by Tarcisio Tosin, a ceramicist born in 1904 who studied at the Institute of Nouveau Art. His family moved to Verona in 1914, and Tarcisio worked in his father’s Cassandrini Ceramics Factory. He moved to Vicenza in 1928, designing at Fratelli Brotto, later named La Freccia. In 1950 he became President of the Artisan Association of Vicenza and worked until 1985, dying in 1999. If you know more about this ashtray, please write in and share your knowledge.
I definitely scored the treasure of the day! But regardless of its value on eBay or elsewhere, I’m simply excited to have a vintage Harry’s Bar ashtray. Vintage Venetian ashtrays are a certain kind of collectible. My friends Bob and Norma have seven or eight of them from various traditional Venetian restaurants, which they received as gifts after their many trips to Venice. Few restaurants still make them, and fewer still will part with them. Back in the 90s I hung around a lot at Ai Promessi Sposi, the trattoria near Campo Santi Apostoli. I became friends with the owner and the chef, and they gifted me their ashtray. The restaurant has changed hands since then, so I have no idea if they still have any of their ashtrays.