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Ettore Sottsass Daybed, Red Lacquered Wood, Chartreuse Upholstery, Italy c. 1962



Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007) A lively and playful modernist daybed or sofa by Memphis Milano founder Ettore Sottsass, in red lacquered walnut with a black-upholstered cushion and two bolster pillows in chartreuse. An early work by the revolutionary designer and eventual gray eminence of postmodernism, the piece marks an important transitional period as Sottsass moved away from strict functionalism to incorporate ideas from contemporary art, art history, and religion. The sofa eschews the man-made materials of his later Memphis Group works, but anticipates them in its vivid palette. “Every color has a history,” Sottsass said. “Red is the color of the Communist flag, the color that makes a surgeon move faster, and the color of passion.” Indeed, the sensuality of the sofa's hues whimsically counterbalances its functional, minimalist forms. The staggered repetition of the frame's vertical slats, alternating between wide and narrow, forecast the stripes of Sottsass's Nefertiti desk and Superbox cabinets of the late 1960s, and from there his Memphis work of the 1980s. They testify to his interest, at this pivotal stage, in both Italy's striped Romanesque cathedrals and the developing currents of Minimalist painting, while the bold colors indicate his sensitivity to Pop Art. Together, they demonstrate that the the spirited designer, while provocative and irreverent (he would later turn Art Deco and Bauhaus forms on their head), was never ignorant of patrimony. In 1963, around the time he designed this daybed, Sottsass told Gio Ponti's Domus magazine: "I have tried to collect the shapes, colors and symbols that could represent the change in the images of this century from an intellectual organization to a reality that must be lived — to a kind of pure and vital energy." That vitality vibrates throughout this piece. Shown in the final images with a pair of Tom Dixon floor lamps in gold leaf, also available at Vivamus Gallery. Italy, c. 1962. Measurements: 80" L x 27" D x 38" H.


  • Creator
    Ettore Sottsass (Designer)
  • Dimensions
    Height: 38 in. (96.52 cm)Width: 80 in. (203.2 cm)Depth: 27 in. (68.58 cm)
  • Style
    Mid-Century Modern (Of the Period)
  • Materials and Techniques
  • Place of Origin
  • Period
  • Date of Manufacture
  • Condition
    Refinished. Reupholstered. Wear consistent with age and use.
  • Seller Location
    New York, NY
  • Reference Number
    1stDibs: LU3576322047492

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  • Shipping
    Rates vary by destination and complexity. We recommend this shipping type based on item size, type and fragility.
    Ships From: New York, NY
  • Return Policy

    A return for this item may be initiated within 7 days of delivery.

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About Ettore Sottsass (Designer)

An architect, industrial designer, philosopher and provocateur, Ettore Sottsass led a revolution in the aesthetics and technology of modern design in the late 20th century.

Sottsass was the oldest member of the Memphis Group — a design collective, formed in Milan in 1980, whose irreverent, spirited members included Alessandro Mendini, Michele de Lucchi, Michael Graves and Shiro Kuramata. All had grown disillusioned by the staid, black-and-brown “corporatized” modernism that had become endemic in the 1970s. Memphis (the name stemmed from the title of a Bob Dylan song) countered with bold, brash, colorful, yet quirkily minimal designs for furniture, glassware, ceramics and metalwork. They mocked high-status by building furniture with inexpensive materials such as plastic laminates, decorated to resemble exotic finishes such as animal skins. Their work was both functional and — as intended — shocking. 

Sottsass's most-recognized designs appeared in the first Memphis collection, issued in 1981 — notably the multihued, angular Carlton room divider and Casablanca bookcase. As pieces on 1stDibs demonstrate, however, Sottsass is at his most imaginative and expressive in smaller, secondary furnishings such as lamps and chandeliers, and in table pieces and glassware that have playful and sculptural qualities.

It was as an artist that Ettore Sottsass was celebrated in his life, in exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in 2006, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art a year later. Even then Sottsass’s work prompted critical debate. And for a man whose greatest pleasure was in astonishing, delighting and ruffling feathers, perhaps there was no greater accolade. That the work remains so revolutionary and bold — that it breaks with convention so sharply it will never be considered mainstream — is a testament to his genius.

About the Seller
5 / 5
Located in New York, NY
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Established in 2016
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28 sales on 1stDibs
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