Specialist Picks: Six Exceptional Works by Gio Ponti

Highlights from one of the most influential and inventive Italian designers of the twentieth century.

Highlights from one of the most influential and inventive Italian designers of the twentieth century.

Gio Ponti, Prototype ‘Mariposa’ sofa, designed for the XI Milan Triennale, c. 1957. Estimate £70,000 - 90,000. Design London.

The 1950s were an extremely productive decade for Gio Ponti. The multidisciplinary designer promoted Italy's tradition of artisan craftmanship while simultaneously embracing industrial production through his own work, Domus magazine, and exhibitions such as the Milan Triennale. We challenged our specialists to choose six highlights from the prolific period—and the following works illustrate Ponti's continued development of design typologies, his expression of geometric compositions in three dimensions, and his dedication to visual and physical lightness

1. Rare ‘Distex’ Armchair 

Ponti exhibited the "Distex" armchair design at the X Milan Triennale in 1954. The present armchair is a rare example that retains its original upholstery. Emphasized by the contrasting use of fabric and vinyl upholstery, the geometric, multifaceted form referenced contemporary skyscrapers.

Gio Ponti, Rare ‘Distex’ armchair, c. 1953. Estimate £18,000 - 24,000. Design London


Bid Now on Lot 22 >

2. Rare Low Table

Ponti often favoured recurring, graphic motifs that transformed into geometric compositions. This table design prominently features the diamond, which became central to his visual vocabulary in both design and architecture. In addition to its geometry, the tabletop’s open latticework illustrates Ponti’s signature play of light and shadow. His manipulation of voided space adds levity to the traditional craftsmanship of wood furniture.

Gio PontiRare low table, designed for the RAI Headquarters, Milan, early 1950s. Estimate £30,000 - 50,000. Design London


Bid Now on Lot 4 >

3. Prototype ‘Mariposa’ Sofa

This sofa is a prototype that was designed for the XI Milan Triennale in 1957. Although originally conceived for serial production, the design never went into manufacture and only two examples are known to exist. The other known example was created for Villa Planchart in Caracas, one of Ponti’s celebrated architectural projects, and remains there still.

The “Mariposa” or “Butterfly” sofa was inspired by the rough surfaces and roofs of Venezuelan villas. Playing with surface, the design offers continuous change in appearances, depending on one's position and perception. From all angles, its form gives a sense of being without weight or mass, like a perched butterfly.

Gio Ponti, Prototype ‘Mariposa’ sofa, designed for the XI Milan Triennale, c. 1957. Estimate £70,000 - 90,000. Design London


Bid Now on Lot 13 >

4. Rare Dressing Table and 'Superleggera' Side Chair

Also exhibited at the XI Milan Triennale in 1957, this dressing table exemplifies a design typology that Ponti constantly evolved throughout his career. This custom example was exquisitely wrought by renowned cabinetmaker Giordano Chiesa, with blue and violet laminates and white painted finishes, emblematic of Ponti’s preferred contrasts of pure colors with black, white, or gray. The “Superleggera” chair is one of the most iconic Italian post-war designs. The slender, elegant design was the culmination of Ponti’s determination to create lightest chair possible.

Gio PontiRare dressing table and 'Superleggera' side chair, model no. 699, designed for the XI Milan Triennale, c. 1957. Estimate £20,000 - 30,000. Design London


Bid Now on Lot 3 > 

5. Pair of Wall Lights with Niches

After the war, Ponti explored multifunctional furnishings that were integrated into the structure of his rooms. This typology was expressed in different scales, ranging from a series of wall lights (including the present lot)—which served also as spotlights to illuminate Ponti’s ceramic works—to his larger “organized walls” (for example lots 84, 85, 86). The form of the wall light with niche could be installed individually, while other examples were integrated into Ponti’s designs for bookcases and organized walls.

Gio Ponti, Pair of wall lights with niches, 1950s. Estimate £20,000 - 30,000. Design London


Bid Now on Lot 12 >

6. Desk and chair with integrated ‘Parete attrezzata’

Along with lots 84 and 85, this desk and chair form part of the bedroom designed for an apartment in Busto Arsizio. Together, they illustrate the architect’s concept of the parete attrezzata or “organized wall.” Ponti first introduced the idea of combining shelving, light fixtures, and objects within a single panel in the late 1940s, and it would continue to inform his interior design of domestic and commercial spaces with an increasing focus on visual lightness. 

Gio Ponti, Desk and chair with integrated ‘Parete attrezzata,' 1950s. Estimate £15,000 - 20,000. Design London.


Bid Now on Lot 86 >


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