Alessandro Mendini - Design London Wednesday, April 25, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Purchased for the interior of the Robert and Michele Kay Furniture and Art Gallery, Sloane
    Street, Knightsbridge, London, 1978–79, then gifted
    Bonhams, ‘Post War and Contemporary Art and Design’ London, 22 September 2010, lot 137

  • Literature

    Barbara Radice, Elogio del banale, Milan, 1980, front cover
    Andrea Branzi, The Hot House: Italian New Wave Design, Cambridge, 1984, p. 123 fig. 321
    Albrecht Bangert, Italian Furniture Design: Ideas Styles Movements, Munich, 1988, pp. 63, 65
    Charlotte and Peter Fiell, 1000 Chairs, Cologne, 1997, p. 538
    Glenn Adamson and Jane Pavitt eds., Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970–1990, exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2011, p. 41

  • Catalogue Essay

    Alessandro Mendini designed his ‘Poltrona di Proust’ for the 1978 ‘Room of the Century’ exhibition at Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara. Mendini based his design on an 18th-century Rococo-style armchair which he purchased in the Veneto and which was subsequently hand-painted by Prospero Rasulo and Pier Antonio Volpini. Together the two artists executed the first four or five examples of ‘Proust’, the surface decoration of which was taken from a detail of a Paul Signac painting that was projected onto the chair.

    The wood and upholstery of the chair functioned as both canvas and frame for the pointillist painting. Only very early chairs adhere to the pattern and palette determined by the detail of the original Signac painting. Over time different painters produced chairs and their decorations deviated significantly from that original template, with the appearance of the chairs increasingly determined by the painters themselves.

    Alessandro Mendini believes the present lot to be among the earliest examples of ‘Poltrona di Proust’ painted in the late 1970s by Prospero Rasulo and Pier Antonio Volpini or possibly by Franco Migliaccio, who succeeded them. The present chair is therefore one of the very first of these “aesthetic bombs” to explode the modernist orthodoxy of functionalism.


Early ‘Poltrona di Proust’

circa 1978
Hand painted fabric and wood.
108 x 93 x 77 cm (42 1/2 x 36 5/8 x 30 3/8 in)

£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £91,250


26 April 2012