Gio Ponti - Design London Thursday, May 12, 2022 | Phillips
  • Suspended in a Web of Complexities:
    Ponti’s Lattice-Top Tables


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


    Even in his earliest designs for Ginori, Ponti comes up with countless iterations of the lattice motif as a device for orchestrating visual effects. These grids or skewered grid patterns appear on vases, bowls, and large cisterns, all with evocative titles like Prospettica, Passeggiata, or Ortogonale. By the mid-1930s, Ponti adapted these grid patterns as structural bracing for table tops in designs that exhibit a synthesis of two essential concerns. The first is an inventive use of connective tectonic supports to the four legs. The second is a purely pictorial emphasis on the diamond emblem. By forcing the grid into a slight compression, he turns an array of diamonds into an interlocking web. This gives the objects a dramatic visual presence, and underscores his idea of the essentiality of the diamond form as an architectural matrix.


    The present model coffee table represents a specific stage of an evolution that took place over a handful of previous private commissions, all in the 1930s. Each of these tables was unique, as is the one in discussion, and each displays one of multiple variants on lattice tops. Beginning with the Casa Marmont of 1933, continuing with three interiors in rapid succession for the Laporte, Ripamonte, and Vanzetti families from 1935-38. This series is now seen as possibly the most compelling example of Ponti's particular poetics of Rationalism. Most of this furniture was manufactured by Fratelli Radice using burled wood veneers, but the singular variation on offer here is in solid oak. It was most likely designed at the end of the 1930s and possibly executed by Giordano Chiesa. What stands out is the treatment of the legs; they are split down the middle, which multiplies four legs into eight. Their profiles are undulating curves that taper downwards and are conjoined by a minute triangular wedge, just above the floor. Ponti keeps reinventing choreographies of protrusions and voids as he does here with the shallow indentation at the top of each leg.


    Detail of the coffee table's lattice motif


    This produces a subtle shadow line, uplifting the entire circular table top that then seems to hover above its eight vertical supports. As we look from a standing position, our gaze is pulled through the diamond lattice top towards the split legs. In this gap, another motif emerges on our retina: an upside-down triangle or obelisk in negative, which in turn initiates endless reflections of interwoven geometries. In what is most likely the last iteration of the wooden lattice-top tables, Ponti pushed his invented archetype a step further than before, amplifying his idiosyncratic tectonic visual readings and realities. Yet by the 1950s he still reprised the hybrid typology of split leg and lattice top, this time for a series of metal tables.


    Ponti’s fascination with the lattice motif is also reflected in unique pieces purpose-built for the architecture he lived in over the years, from the root-wood piece made in 1934 for his living room on Via Brin to the 1955 polychrome brass model built for what became his last residence on Via Dezza.

    • Provenance

      Private collection, Italy

    • Literature

      'In visita alle case', Domus, no. 113, May 1937, p. 41 for a similar example
      Ugo La Pietra, ed., Gio Ponti: L’Arte si innamora dell’Industria, New York, 2009, p. 61 for a similar example

    • Catalogue Essay

      Phillips wishes to thank Brian Kish for his assistance in cataloguing the present lot.

    • 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


Unique coffee table

circa 1937
Oak, glass.
50 cm (19 5/8 in.) high, 95.7 cm (37 5/8 in.) diameter
Possibly executed by Giordano Chiesa, Milan, Italy. Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

Full Cataloguing

£18,000 - 24,000 Ω

Sold for £23,940

Contact Specialist

Antonia King

Head of Sale, Design
+44 20 7901 7944


London Auction 12 May 2022