Gio Ponti - Design New York Tuesday, December 16, 2008 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Tosi Family, Rovigo, Italy

  • Catalogue Essay

    The stock character Pulcinella flits across the stage of the Commedia dell’Arte dressed in white blouse and white sugarloaf cap, masked in black. Born with two fathers, he represents dichotomy in a topsy-turvy world and in the motley heart of man. He is both master and servant, foolish and wise. He plods, he springs—the archetypal trickster who upends convention through reversal and surprise.
    Gio Ponti (architect, et cetera) was nothing if not variable: he published, painted, built. In the words of Ico Parisi, he ably shifted “from a skyscraper to a fork, from a cathedral to a chair…” Throughout his career Ponti contrasted exuberant decoration with spare elegance: appliquéd butterflies today, rhomboid flatware tomorrow. Despite the constant change, he kept his sense of humor—all those diamond patterns on doors and chairs? A jester’s motif.
    In 1939 Ponti designed the costumes for a revival of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Pucinella. In a watercolor study for the project, he rendered the title character in traditional piebald mode. In subsequent years, Ponti returned to the energetic austerity of black and white in his use of striped fabrics and Fornasetti patterns, and in a version of his Superleggera chair for Cassina, where he contrasted the colors of the legs and stretchers. “When you are going in the right direction – I always say – you are going from the heavy to the light, from the opaque to the transparent…”
    In August 1968, as he himself approached the light, Ponti wrote to Mobilifici Tosi, a furniture maker in Rovigo, south of Padua. “Following our telephone conversation on the 6th, I enclose this drawing of the stool, to manufacture four around the most beautiful table in the world.” He meant the present lot, but did he mean it? Ponti was certainly prone to hyperbole. “Isn’t the world silly”, he wrote in Domus. Yes, but deadly serious too. His table reminds us that sooner or later, noon will turn to night—Ponti may in fact have been right.

  • Artist Biography

    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.

    View More Works


Extremely rare table with four stools

Table: lacquered wood; each stool: lacquered wood, skaai. 
Table: 29 in. (73.7 cm.) high, 45 3/8 in. (115.3 cm.)diameter; each stool: 21 1/4 in. (54 cm.) high
Manufactured by Mobilifici Tosi, Italy.  One of two examples of this design which were never put into production.  Together with a certificate of authenticity from the Ponti archives (5).

$80,000 - 100,000 


17 Dec 2008 2pm
New York