Gio Ponti - Modern Masters London Tuesday, April 25, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Dulciora offices, Milan
    Thence by descent

  • Literature

    'Il pannello-cruscotto per la scrivania di un dirigente d'azienda', Domus, no. 228, September 1948, pp. 22-23 for drawings of a similar example
    Cornelio Brandini, Gio Ponti, Arte Applicata, exh. cat., Centro Internazionale di Brera, Milan, 1987, fig. 101 for a similar example
    Ugo La Pietra, ed., Gio Ponti, New York, 2009, p. 190, figs. 396-399 for images and drawings of a similar example
    Laura Falconi, ed., Gio Ponti: Interiors, Objects, Drawings, 1920-1976, Milan, 2010, p. 241 for drawings of a similar example

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I loathe oversized desks full of drawers”
    Works from the Dulciora offices, Milan

    In an article published in the 228th issue of Domus in September 1948, Gió Ponti describes the creation of the pannello-cruscotto (wall-panel). Conceived to complement the writing desk of an executive director – and later produced with some alterations for the Dulciora offices in Milan - this piece is part of a coherent search for innovation within the home and office décor, which began in the late 1930s with the Montecatini headquarter in Milan and which continued to develop into the late 1950s.

    In 1952 Ponti defined the underlying principle of his design: “I’m constantly moving […] towards the ‘organised walls’ (pareti organizzate), meaning large panels fitted and hanging from the walls […] where the arrangement of different objects is assembled in a predetermined composition” (Domus, no. 266). In 1948 he had already worked on the ‘headboard-panel’ for the bed; a single wall panel containing a set of varied facilities that went beyond the simple purpose of sleeping or reading. Similarly, Ponti’s wall-panel consists of a prearranged design, which comprises light switches, bookshelves, and a waste paper basket and is enriched by two movable pieces of furniture hinged to the wall, containing a telephone, an intercom and a typewriter. It combines several items in a definite area that takes over the function previously assigned to separate pieces: “I’m drawn to the use of wooden wall panels, in which I can assemble different units with these same precision as if I was painting an abstract figure” (Domus, no. 228). Complementing the wall-panel Ponti devised an elegant executive desk, which had to be ‘light’ on drawers and could double both as a working surface and as a conference table.

    It is no coincidence that in the same issue of Domus, Ponti included a detailed portrayal of Le Corbusier’s Modulor, explaining the underpinning theory of its design (with the help of tables, graphic and formulas). When describing the ‘organised walls’ in his articles, the Milanese architect alludes to Le Corbusier’s concept of the house as a ‘liveable machine’ and the need to express a modern style by applying universally valid principles and rules. His wall panels represent a tangible, but nonetheless refined response to the French master’s ideas.

    Ponti’s invention is a unique modular system to organist the home space: the architect’s aim is clearly to: “create an order for current modern habits […]. It is advisable to perfect this order by simplifying preexisting and fundamental shapes, in order to create a style rather than establishing the contortion of a style” (ibid). Further evidence of the tribute to Modulor is the proportional method that accompanies the orthogonal projection of the executive desk: “using the Golden ratio, the edges of the wall panel surrounding the desk, repeated four times, provide a setting which supports the writing surface and which holds two sets of drawers” (Ibid).

    The executive desk and the ‘organised wall’, excluding the hinged semi-movable furniture designed for the Dulciora offices which we are offering at auction represent a slightly simplified version of the projects published in Domus, and were likely used to decorate the secondary offices. A unique set of chairs and an exquisite folding table, inspired by a design developed for Beltrami in the 1930s and which would become a distinctive trait of Ponti’s 1950s works, complete the series of furniture.

  • 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 executive desk, designed for the Dulciora offices, Milan

Oak, oak-veneered wood, brass.
79.8 x 199.8 x 74.8 cm (31 3/8 x 78 5/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
Manufactured by Saffa, Milan, Italy. Together with a certificate of authenticity from the Gio Ponti Archives.

£35,000 - 45,000 

Contact Specialist
Madalena Horta e Costa
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4019

Modern Masters

London Auction 26 April 2017