Important and rare low table, designed for the Contini Bonacossi residence, Quadreria Moderna, Villa Vittoria, Florence

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  • Provenance

    Contini Bonacossi residence, Quadreria Moderna, Villa Vittoria, Florence, 1927
    Thence by descent

  • Literature

    'Alcuni mobili di Tomaso Buzzi e di Gio Ponti nella dimora dei Conti C. in Firenze', Domus, no. 71, November 1933, illustrated pp. 580-581
    Ugo La Pietra, ed., Gio Ponti: L’arte si innamora dell’industria, New York, 2009, illustrated p. 51, fig. 119
    Giunti Editore, Le collezione Contini Bonacossi, nelle Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence, 2018, illustrated p. 44

  • Catalogue Essay

    The origins of the Contini Bonacossi family’s art collection began with the encounter of Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, later receiving the title of count, and Erminia Vittoria Galli Feroldi. Already a collector and dealer of stamps, Alessandro, when he married Vittoria in 1888, soon turned his focus towards Old Masters. Together, Alessandro and Vittoria travelled to America, where they cultivated important relationships with art collectors and museums, in order to further expand and enrich their collection, all of which was beautifully chronicled in Vittoria’s diaries ‘Diari Americani’.

    Although from humble origins, through her natural intuition Vittoria developed an incredibly sophisticated eye for identifying exceptional works of art. She soon became an irreplaceable advisor, not only to her husband Alessandro, but also to art critics such as Bernard Berenson and Roberto Longhi.

    Returning to Italy, they settled in Florence, where they acquired a nineteenth-century villa built by Marquess Massimiliano Strozzi, which Alessandro then renamed Villa Vittoria in honour of his beloved wife. With the priority of accommodating their magnificent art collection, the villa underwent extensive refurbishment under the supervision of Gio Ponti, Tomaso Buzzi and Giulio Rosso. The display and placement of the artworks was inspired by the principles of Wilhelm von Bode, the first curator of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, known today as the Bode Museum. Completed in 1927, the house was frequented by art critics, museum directors, painters, writers, and aristocracy.

    The ground floor retained its original nineteenth-century Neo-Renaissance style, housing their antiques and Old Masters collection, which included works by Giovanni Bellini, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Titian, Paolo Veronese, Paolo Uccello, Tintoretto, El Greco, Diego Velazquez, and many others. A token of her devotion, Vittoria kept a notebook with the names and dates of each of the artists in their collection, donating five liras of silver to the church to hold a mass in honour of their anniversaries.

    The modern art collection, which was Vittoria’s foremost passion, was located on the first floor in the Quadreria moderna (modern picture gallery), and displayed works amongst others by Giorgio de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi, Marino Marini, and Carlo Carrà. For the space, which occupied a long hallway, Ponti designed several pieces, comprising six stools, four benches and two tables, adopting a neoclassical style inspired by ancient Rome. Each work was executed by master cabinetmaker Angelo Quarti using walnut, leather, brass and marble. The present lot was one of two low tables that were positioned in the centre of the gallery, each featuring a different coloured marble tabletop, Verde delle Alpi and Rosso Toscano respectively. The brass table legs feature a sculptural quality illustrating Ponti’s desire to create an environment honouring the exceptional quality of the surrounding art collection. Of Ponti’s works from this period, this commission stands out for its exceptional level of execution.

    In 1943, when Florence was freed by their American allies, General Mark W. Clark and the high command were stationed at the Villa Vittoria. Recalling his stay, General Clark stated: 'It was worth fighting the war to live in this house, to get to know you, for everything ...’

    Today Villa Vittoria is Florence’s Congress Palace. As outlined in Contini Bonacossi’s will, part of the collection was donated to the State and is displayed at the Uffizzi Gallery, Florence.

  • Artist Bio

    Gio Ponti

    Italian • 1891 - 1979

    Among the most prolific talents to grace twentieth-century design, Gio Ponti defied categorization. Though trained as an architect, he made major contributions to the decorative arts, designing in such disparate materials as ceramics, glass, wood and metal. A gale force of interdisciplinary creativity, Ponti embraced new materials like plastic and aluminum but employed traditional materials such as marble and wood in original, unconventional ways.

    In the industrial realm, he designed buildings, cars, machinery and appliances — notably, the La Cornuta espresso machine for La Pavoni — and founded the ADI (Industrial Designer Association). Among the most special works by Gio Ponti are those that he made in collaboration with master craftsmen such as the cabinetmaker Giordano Chiesa, the illustrator Piero Fornasetti and the enamellist Paolo de Poli.

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Gio Ponti

Important and rare low table, designed for the Contini Bonacossi residence, Quadreria Moderna, Villa Vittoria, Florence

1927
Rosso Toscano marble, brass, walnut.
41.5 x 226.7 x 74.2 cm (16 3/8 x 89 1/4 x 29 1/4 in.)
Executed by master cabinetmaker Angelo Magnoni for Quarti, Milan, Italy. From the production of two. Underside with metal label facsimile signature Gio Ponti and thrice stamped MAGNONI ANGELO/EBANISTA/28 VIA MELZO 28/MILANO. Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

Estimate
£180,000 - 240,000 

sold for £261,000

Contact Specialist
Madalena Horta e Costa
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4019

Important Design

London Auction 26 April 2018