Gio Ponti - Design London Thursday, May 12, 2022 | Phillips

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  • A Table of Many Facets


    By Brian Kish, Curator and Specialist in 20th Century Italian architecture and design 
    Associate member of the Gio Ponti Archives since 2006 

    The decade of the 1950s was Ponti’s most prolific period in the fields of architecture and design. A constant stream of opportunities poured in simultaneously, keeping him and his firm, PFR, busier than they had ever been.


    It also gave rise to much autonomous experimentation, often while working on minor projects that generated long-term ideas for more important commissions. Nowhere is this more evident than in an inventive collection of prototypes for a small furniture company in Brianza: Cantieri Carugati.


    From around 1953 onwards, Ponti created a few memorable masterworks for this modern ebanista, including two dining tables and one credenza. In these works, Ponti lent three-dimensional form to ideas he had begun to express a decade earlier. These mainly revolve around his theory of architecture as an activity embodied in a living crystal, forever striving towards the essential, across a wide range of disciplines; from urbanism through to buildings and industrial design, looping his ideas into a poetic continuity free of conventional hierarchies.


    In this group of three designs, the prototype diamond dining table is Ponti’s most successful achievement in the course of his relentless quest for absolute form. Designed in three parts, this utilitarian object is an arresting piece that can be read as both sculpture and architecture. Its hexagonal top element appears suspended by means of a steel frame that is almost imperceptibly anchored into a pair of sculpted wooden bases hewn like cut diamonds.


    Indeed, the birch wood tabletop is cross-veneered in four walnut triangles that divide it into three distinct hexagonal segments. This simple optical device lends surprising grace to what could have been a monotonous expanse, as often seen in mid-century modern furniture. Ponti always set his designs in optical motion while at the same time achieving a solid, definite form.


    This table was created while he was also developing his prototype car design for an Alfa Romeo body, Linea diamante. One drawing, a bird's eye view of this car, shows the exact form as well as tripartite sections repeated on the tabletop. 


    Gio Ponti’s drawing for the Linea Diamante Alfa Romeo
    © Gio Ponti Archives


    Again this same form is to be found in multiple preliminary sketches for the footprint of the Pirelli Tower in Milan. Like this floating tabletop, the Pirelli roof also hovers above its support. 


    Left: Gio Ponti’s preliminary sketches for the Pirelli Tower 
    Right: The Pirelli Tower in Milan with it's floating roof
    © Gio Ponti Archives


    The latest design relating to this sculptural table came about in the dining room of Villa Planchart in Caracas, where multi-faceted, succinct ‘diamond’ plinth supports are carved in marble, one in white Carrara and the other in Nero Portoro, this time with an octagonal, hovering walnut wood tabletop.


    The dining room in Villa Planchart, Caracas, Venezuela © Gio Ponti Archives
    The dining room in Villa Planchart, Caracas, Venezuela
    © Gio Ponti Archives


    Speculation that this 1953 prototype diamond table was the genesis of multiple projects in different scales, is based on an analysis of many other Pontian concepts. Along his entire journey of endless invention, Ponti never fully abandons a particular form. And one most dear to him is the crystal, best exemplified in the diamond form. ‘The metaphor was used to pursue an image of purity, order, impulse, and immobility, of “eternity”, of silence and charm at the same time; an image of closed forms in which everything would be consummated in the rigor of volumes and of thought; and, let me add an image of classicism’.i

    i Gio Ponti, Amate l'architettura, Genoa, 1957, p. 29

    • Provenance

      Private collection, Biella

    • Literature

      Karl Kolbitz, ed., Gio Ponti, Cologne, 2021, p. 357 for a similar example

    • 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


Rare prototype dining table

circa 1957
Birch-veneered wood, walnut-veneered wood, walnut, painted steel.
76.9 x 324.2 x 92 cm (30 1/4 x 127 5/8 x 36 1/4 in.)
Produced by Cantieri Carugati, Rovellasca, Italy. Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

Full Cataloguing

£40,000 - 60,000 Ω

Sold for £60,480

Contact Specialist

Antonia King

Head of Sale, Design
+44 20 7901 7944


London Auction 12 May 2022