Gio Ponti - Design New York Thursday, June 8, 2023 | Phillips
  • “This is my masterpiece: I call it my jumping horse: I mean it is a piece of furniture that is very simple but not formally inert.” 
    —Gio Ponti


    In describing the present model desk Gio Ponti wrote, “This is my masterpiece: I call it my jumping horse: I mean it is a piece of furniture that is very simple but not formally inert.” Indeed, Ponti’s trim, sprightly design stands poised and ready to leap into action, a total reinterpretation of the traditionally heavy and sometimes bulky form of an office desk with drawers.


    The present model desk featured in Domus, no. 289, December 1953. Image: Archivio Domus – © Editoriale Domus S.p.A.

    Ponti designed the desk for the New York-based furniture company Altamira, which retailed Italian furnishings and objects from their 18 East 50th St. showroom in the 1950s. Similar to his collaboration with New York-based Singer & Sons several years prior, beginning in 1953 Ponti designed an entire line of furniture for Altamira, which was executed by Giordano Chiesa in Milan. An earlier walnut burl-clad iteration of the Altamira desk appeared in Ponti’s Casa di Fantasia in 1951 (sold by Phillips, London, April 2023) and, as noted in the December 1953 issue of Domus, this desk further recalled another version created for Nordiska Kompaniet earlier in 1953. For the Altamira design, however, Ponti opted for ash wood, lending a lighter and more attenuated aspect to the form. The following year Ponti also exhibited the same model at the 10th Milan Triennale as part of a presentation titled “The Furnished Window” which envisioned a domestic setting for a single working professional. 


    The present model desk exhibited at the 10th Milan Triennale as published in Domus, no. 301, December 1954. Image: Archivio Domus – © Editoriale Domus S.p.A.

    The 1950s constituted Ponti’s most prolific decade. At the forefront of the post-war recovery effort, he led the way in defining Italian design for the new era and spreading the gospel internationally. In addition to the above-mentioned collaborations with Singer & Sons and Altamira, he took part in the traveling American exhibition “Italy at Work;” designed flatware for Sabattini, Reed & Barton, and Christofle; designed fabrics and household fixtures; and executed commissions in Brazil, Italy, Iraq, Sweden, Venezuela, and the United States. Notable New York projects included his design for the Alitalia offices on Fifth Avenue (1958) and the auditorium for the Time & Life Building (1959). For the Time & Life auditorium he created monumental obelisk-form wall lights (a pair of which is on offer in this sale), the design for which he had earlier explored in sketches for the Altamira showroom. 

    • Provenance

      Christie's, New York, "20th Century Decorative Art & Design," September 26, 2007, lot 374
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      "Forma d'una scrivania," Domus, no. 289, December 1953, p. 52
      "Alloggio uniambientale alla Triennale," Domus, no. 301, December 1954, p. 31
      Lisa Licitra Ponti, Gio Ponti: The Complete Work 1923-1978, Cambridge, 1990, pp. 8, 166
      Ugo La Pietra, ed., Gio Ponti, New York, 2009, p. 233

    • 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

Property from a Private New York Collection


Desk, designed for the Altamira showroom, New York

circa 1953
Walnut, ash-veneered wood, brass.
32 3/8 x 70 x 27 1/4 in. (82.2 x 177.8 x 69.2 cm)
Executed by Giordano Chiesa, Milan, Italy. Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

Full Cataloguing

$25,000 - 35,000 

Contact Specialist

Benjamin Green
Associate Specialist
Associate Head of Sale
+1 917 207 9090


New York Auction 8 June 2023