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

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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Busto Arsizio, commissioned directly from the designer, 1950s

  • Catalogue Essay

    A Room to Rest and Wonder
    By Brian Kish

    A rare occurrence but no anomaly, the present bedroom suite is an autonomous single commission that does not quite conform to Gio Ponti’s well known preference for total control of an entire project, where he designs a commercial, devotional or residential building and all of its contents from top to bottom. Nevertheless, in this private commission he demonstrates a wide panoply of original spatial solutions that combines structural mastery with a seductive manipulation of materials. The scheme is an adroit juxtaposition of three distinct units, pared down into elegantly functional elements adapted to the needs of everyday life.

    The wardrobe wall is the largest unit, extending more than three and half metres with a four-door cabinet that terminates into an open element with a slightly recessed niche. A short right angled return hugs a corner of the room. Into its shallow setback a vertical stack of drawers functions as a dresser, above which a wood panel contains a brass frame insert, most likely meant for a mirror.

    The bedside wall unit is configured into a corner space with the wood panelling wrapping around it and supporting a large cantilevered chest of drawers. There are three angular shelves projecting from its left side, while a magazine holder hangs on the panel above near another mirror frame insert. In dialogue with the surrounding elements the free standing single bed itself is adorned with cut-out voids at either end so that the headboard and footboard are identical. In turn, these two end profiles are slightly canted so that their symmetrical configuration relates to the three oblique floating shelves of the back wall panel.

    The third unit is the desk area, which is also set into a corner. It features a more resolute heft where the complexity of geometries is the most visually engaging of the three bedroom compositions. Under the back-painted glass top of the desk, which is perpendicular to the wall panel, several open box shelves contrast against closed ones while the back wall holds an array of cantilevered magazine shelves. Ponti enriched the optical readings of every surface with geometrical and pictorial embellishments as well as varying treatments of oak veneers. Besides the warmth that oak imparts with its symbolic meanings of strength and knowledge, the textures of the Italian grissinatura technique and the plain vertical strips of quartered oak surfaces bring out the full force of this noble material.

    The present bedroom design has clear historical precedents in Ponti’s oeuvre. The emergence of the parete attrezzata (furnished wall) can be traced back to his rationalist interiors of 1930s such as the Casa Marmont (1933) and the Casa Vanzetti (1938). By 1948, this trend came to full development in the Cremaschi apartment where Ponti devised ‘organisational’ furniture that doubled as a wall, which became for him a method to enliven these domestic realms. The bedroom demonstrates these principles and methods to varying degrees in all three distinct units. Along with the pictorial aspects, they enhance and pull the bedroom together in a state of effortless cohesion that endows the space with a touch of enchantment.

    In 1951, Ponti achieved great notoriety for his 'Hotel Bedroom' at the 9th Milan Triennale. That experimental exhibition concept is very likely to have led directly to this private bedroom commission. Both rooms have a similar scheme, profiling of forms, and spatial affinities. However, the imaginary hotel room was predominantly covered in yellow laminates with oak trimmings and brass handles that was meant to suggest the space of a room within the exhibition. Meanwhile the present private commission became a more elaborate program, no doubt enhanced by client specifications supported with adequate funding. Still, the installation at the Triennale was executed by Egidio Proserpio, one of Ponti's most trusted ebanisti, and the similarities of many details in both bedrooms point to the same craftsman.

    The overall structure of this project and its spatial qualities are above all the result of an architect’s thinking and methodology where Ponti distillates his innate sensibilities through his labyrinthine handling of space and tectonics to create a space to rest and wonder.

    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


Bed with integrated ‘Parete attrezzata’

Oak-veneered wood, oak, sapele, reverse-painted glass, glass, brass.
Overall: 105.5 x 244.5 x 220 cm (41 1/2 x 96 1/4 x 86 5/8 in.)
Together with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

£12,000 - 18,000 

Contact Specialist

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



London Auction 12 November 2020