Gio Ponti - Design London Thursday, November 12, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Milan

  • Exhibited

    'Gio Ponti. A Lifestyle Cell', Borsa Italiana Gallery, Milan, 12-16 April 2019

  • Literature

    ‘‘Proposte per la casa’ alla XI Triennale’, Domus, no. 337, December 1957, pp. 33-35
    Laura Falconi, Gio Ponti: Interiors, Objects, Drawings 1920-1976, Milan, 2004, pp. 183-86 for the chair

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present models were exhibited at the XI Milan Triennale, 1957.

    Gio Ponti: Towards Essential Form

    Gio Ponti's design typologies are constantly evolving as he invents endless reiterations of trusted furniture forms, embracing new aesthetic currents as they emerge and configuring them through his own mercurial imagination. His work stands out for its multifaceted visual impact that inspires at once wonder and delight. With this 1957 vanity it would appear that Ponti had achieved the ultimate iteration of this specific typology. Still he actually came up with a more basic and economical version of the piece, which was produced by Cassina in the following decade for use in the Parco dei Principi hotel interiors. In contrast, this custom example, exquisitely wrought by Giordano Chiesa, with blue and violet laminates and white painted finishes is an elaborate antecedent to what was to become a well-known design icon and sought-after collector’s item.

    For Ponti the very structure of the vanity object type has a long genesis going back to his abstracted Neoclassical experiments with the Milan Novecento style, as seen in the Domus Nova series of the late 1920s. By the early 1930s, the evolution moves into a reductive phase in tune with a sea change in Italian architecture initiated by the cerebral Rationalist movement. Within both stylistic idioms Ponti resorts to his idiosyncratic repertory of rich materials ranging from burled wood veneers to coloured glass, always attaching the requisite mirror either circular or rectilinear. By the late 1930s, and again in the late 1940s, Ponti makes an excursion into a more Metaphysical realm with a fugitive eroticism of vanities ‘dressed’ in fabric skirts that also envelop the accompanying side chairs.

    When more ample commissions for large private villas came along in the 1950s, Ponti had reached a peak in the exalted reinterpretation of all his furniture typologies. His designs were feather drawn in attenuated lines, and in the best examples, form was blocked out in colour as exemplified in this vanity. He had a chromatic method of always pairing a colour with white. When designing this particular vanity, he had mastered the concept of finite form that he had strived to attain in both architecture and design. An almost identical model in elmwood designed in 1957, and also paired ‘Superleggera’ chair, can be seen at the Villa Planchart. The crucial difference is that the four tapering legs are set at a 90-degree angle to the top surface whereas in the present polychrome version the legs are set canted to meet the chamfered edge at 45 degrees. This subtle difference engages the ever so slightly concave curved top and pushes the optical reading into a compelling crystalline gestalt.

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

  • 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 dressing table and 'Superleggera' side chair, model no. 699, designed for the XI Milan Triennale

circa 1957
Plastic-laminated wood, painted wood, mirrored glass, brass, ash, straw.
Dressing table: 110 x 119.6 x 64.5 cm (43 1/4 x 47 1/8 x 25 3/8 in.)
Chair: 82.2 x 40.2 x 45.7 cm (32 3/8 x 15 7/8 x 17 7/8 in.)

The dressing table manufactured by Giordano Chiesa, Milan, Italy and the chair manufactured by Cassina, Meda, Italy. Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £35,280

Contact Specialist

Madalena Horta E Costa
Head of Sale, Associate Specialist
+44 20 7318 4019



London Auction 12 November 2020