Gae Aulenti Coffee Table Fontana Arte Cristal Top and Stem Wheels
About the Item
- Dimensions:Height: 10.24 in (26 cm)Width: 45.67 in (116 cm)Depth: 27.56 in (70 cm)
- Style:Mid-Century Modern (Of the Period)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Place of Origin:
- Date of Manufacture:1970
- Condition:Wear consistent with age and use.
- Seller Location:Lucca, IT
- Reference Number:1stDibs: LU3145319008582
The Italian architect and designer Gae Aulenti will forever be best remembered for her work with museums, in particular her 1980–86 renovation of a Beaux Arts Paris train station to create the galleries of the Musée d’Orsay. Aulenti — whose first name, short for Gaetana, is pronounced “guy” — should also be recalled for her tough intellectual spirit and for working steadily when few women found successful architectural careers in postwar Italy.
After she graduated from the Milan Polytechic in 1954, Aulenti opened an architectural office. She also joined the staff of the progressive architectural magazine Casabella, whose editorial line was that the establishment, orthodox modernism of Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus, had outlived it usefulness. When their movement for fresh approaches to architecture and design received a sympathetic hearing, Aulenti found patrons — most prominently Gianni Agnelli, of Fiat, who later employed her to renovate the Palazzo Grassi in Venice for use as an arts exhibition space.
Commissions for showrooms and other corporate spaces brought Aulenti to furniture design. She felt that furniture should never dominate a room. Her chairs and sofas — low-slung, with rounded enameled metal frames and ample seats — and tables, particularly her 1972 marble Jumbo coffee table for Knoll, project solidity and sturdiness. In lighting design, however, Aulenti is bravura. Each work has a marvelous sculptural presence. Pieces such as her Pipistrello table lamp and Quadrifoglio pendant are a perfect marriage of organically shaped glass and high-tech fixtures. Others have a futuristic elegance — and some even have a touch of personality. Aulenti’s Pileino and La Ruspa table lamps each look almost like little robots. Her lighting pieces are an artful grace note in the career of a woman who believed in strength.
Best known for its elegant and innovative vintage lighting fixtures, the Milan-based firm Fontana Arte pioneered one of the key features of 20th-century and contemporary Italian design: the union of artistry and industry wrought by partnerships between creative talents — chiefly architects — and entrepreneurial businesses. Fontana Arte is further distinguished by having had as artistic director, in succession, four of Italy’s most inventive modernist designers: Gio Ponti, Pietro Chiesa, French transplant Max Ingrand and Gae Aulenti.
The bread and butter of the glassmaking company that Luigi Fontana founded in 1881 was plate-glass panels for the construction industry. In 1930, Fontana met Ponti — then the artistic director of the Richard Ginori ceramics workshop and the editor of the influential magazine Domus — at a biannual design exhibition that became the precursor to today’s Milan Design Triennale, and the two hatched an idea for a furniture and housewares firm. Fontana Arte was incorporated in 1932 with Ponti as its chief of design. He contributed several lamps that remain among the company’s signature works, including the orb-atop-cone Bilia table lamp and the 0024 pendant — a stratified hanging sphere.
The following year, Fontana Arte partnered with the influential Milan studio glassmaker and retailer Pietro Chiesa, who took over as artistic director. Chiesa’s designs for lighting — as well as for tables and items including vases and ashtrays — express an appreciation for fluidity and simplicity of line, as seen in works such as his flute-shaped Luminator floor lamp and the 1932 Fontana table — an arched sheet of glass that is held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Six years after Chiesa’s 1948 death, the École des Beaux Arts–trained Max Ingrand took over as head of design at Fontana Arte. Ingrand brought a similarly expressive formal sensibility to wares such as lamps and mirrors, but he also had a masterful eye for the manipulation of glass surfaces — whether they be cut, frosted, acid-etched or sand-blasted. His classic design is the Fontana table lamp of 1954, which has a truncated cone shade and curved body, both of which are made of pure, chic white-frosted glass.
Following Ingrand, the often-audacious Italian architect Gae Aulenti served as the company’s artistic director from 1979 to 1996, and while she generally insisted that furnishings take second place aesthetically to architecture, she made an exception for Fontana Arte pieces such as the Tavolo con Ruote series of glass coffee and dining tables on wheels, bold lighting pieces such as the Parola series and the Giova, a combination flower vase and table lamp. As a key incubator of modern design under Aulenti’s tenure, Fontana Arte remained true to its long-held commitment — creating objects that have never been less than daring.
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A return for this item may be initiated within 14 days of delivery.
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