Gio Ponti - Venice Biennale Mirror (1928) - Brian Kish Gallery

An investment of a few thousand dollars has turned a Manhattan antiques shop into a design pilgrimage spot.

At the dealer R. Louis Bofferding’s store on Lexington Avenue, light bulbs and glass starfish and seaweed protrude from a 1920s mirror that turned up in 2012, labeled simply “Murano Neoclassical Style,” at a Doyle New York auction. Mr. Bofferding paid about $1,500 for it and a few thousand more to restore it, and spent numerous hours trying to identify its designer and maker.

At the Doyle preview, Mr. Bofferding recognized the mirror from an old black-and-white photo he had seen in a catalog of works by the Venini factory on the island of Murano near Venice. He had long wondered if the piece still existed.

“To use the word obsessed is not overplaying it,” he said in an interview, while basking in the mirror’s glow.

Books and journals from the 1920s prove that the Italian architect Gio Ponti designed the mirror for the 1928 pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Three matching mirrors hung in Ponti’s domed rotunda gallery there, but no others have re-emerged yet. It is not clear how the Doyle lot left Italy, although Venini did have a Manhattan distributor in the 1920s.

A few fronds were broken or lost, and Mr. Bofferding had them restored at Pier Glass in Brooklyn. Flooding there from Hurricane Sandy left the mirror unharmed.

Scholars have examined the Biennale survivor, which is now priced in the low six figures. “It was an incredible, incredible find,” Jared Goss, a former curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said in an interview.

Brian Kish, a Manhattan dealer and historian who works with the Gio Ponti Archives in Milan, wrote in an email that the archives will soon register the mirror, “with updated photographs as well as the new location and owner.”

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