When Jon and Becky Zoler moved to Naples in 2003, they started fresh. Sold was their entire impressive American folk art and furniture collection amassed over 30 years, and into their new space trickled contemporary works from Florida artists—plus something a little more unusual: car mascots.
It started with a 1918-1925 Rolls Royce ornament and has grown to more than 150 pieces procured individually from around the word, forming what the Zolers believe to be the largest private collection in Florida.
“These are really miniature sculpture masterpieces,” Jon Zoler says while strolling his home’s carefully curated shelves. Each mascot was created between 1900 and 1939. Gleaming in their detail are renderings of creatures both real and imagined, like the red Welsh dragon and a peacock whose plumage doubled as radio antennae; humans both accurate and more abstract, like Uncle Sam and a number of beautiful women; and everyday objects, like Zoler’s latest acquisition and transitory favorite, an antique camera. The playful and humorous cohabitate with the elegant and sophisticated, the common thread being their display of quality craftsmanship.
Classified either as “factory” (from Auburn, Bentley, Packard, Rolls-Royce and numerous others) or “accessory” (purchased separately, such as those by famous French glassmaker René Claude Lalique), Zoler’s mascots don’t only range widely in style. Many emerge under a theme meant to represent their master: Greyhounds, lions and eagles, for example, conveyed a car of speed and strength.
“It’s almost an undiscovered art form,” Zoler says. And he’s way in on the secret.
See in person most mascots shown here, plus more of Zoler’s collection and dozens of mascots from Miles Collier, on exhibit at The Revs Institute (revsinstitute.org) through Dec. 29.