GIO PONTI (1891-1976) and PIERO FORNASETTI (1913-1988)

The collaboration between architect Gio Ponti and designer Piero Fornasetti was initiated by Ponti’s discovery of the distinctively-patterned silk scarves Fornasetti presented at the V Milan Triennale in 1933 that he chose to feature in his Domus magazine. The two effectively started working together in 1939 when Ponti, who was then working on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Rome, assigned Fornasetti the task of designing its floor. Ponti and Fornasetti established then an important working relationship that would last over twenty years, during which they furnished and decorated significant private commissions, such as the Dulciora emporium in Milan as well as large scale projects such as the Andrea Doria ocean liner and the San Remo Casino.

An icon of Post-War Italian design, the original Trumeau Architettura marked the height of the collaboration between the architect and the designer. The trumeau features the three separate storage sections characteristic of the 18th Century Neoclassical furniture form, the central part designated to function as a writing desk. Produced in only two examples with this décor, the companion trumeau to the present lot was notably revealed at the IX Milan Triennale in 1951 (illustrated) alongside other works by the architect, marking the first appearance of what was to become a signature model for the two collaborators. Gio Ponti’s rationalist approach, evident in the solemn personality of the trumeau conferred clear boundaries and set structure to Fornasetti’s architectural themed patterns, both fantastic and surrealist. Effectively, the two contrasting characteristics offered an unexpected balance between their opposing yet complimentary artistic personalities. Eventually, the Trumeau Architettura was to be subsequently produced, with differing surface treatments, throughout the ensuing decades. The first adaptation that Fornasetti made to the original collaborative design was to remove the curved top and then to adapt the sabot-capped tapering legs to ebonised block feet.

Only two examples of the original 1951 Gio Ponti – Piero Fornasetti collaborative model, with the distinctive curved top and sabot-capped wooden legs, were executed. The other, exhibited at the IX Milan Triennale, has been in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, since 1983. In contrast to the white-painted legs of the present lot, the V example had polished wood legs which were replaced in the 1980s. The history of the present lot can be traced back to a New York writer who acquired the Trumeau from the celebrated and pioneering interior designer Melanie Kahane. Preserved as the collaborative duo intended, this important Trumeau cabinet represents the sole remaining opportunity to engage with an example of this seminal design from the original production.