• Important 20th Century Decorat auction at Christies

    Sale 2230

    Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design

    8 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 244

    CARLO MOLLINO (1905-1973)

    AN IMPORTANT EBONIZED WOOD AND GLASS OCCASSIONAL TABLE, CIRCA 1949-1950

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    CARLO MOLLINO (1905-1973)
    An Important Ebonized Wood and Glass Occassional Table, circa 1949-1950
    executed by Apelli & Varesio, Turin, Vitrex security glass, brass bolts fittings and ball feet
    18 5/8 in. (47.4 cm.) high, 52 1/8 in. (132.5 cm.) wide, 23¼ in. (59 cm.) deep
    both glass shelves acid-stamped Vitrex and with pincer marks


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    This table was secured for the present owner on the opening night of the celebrated selling exhibition dedicated to Carlo Mollino, organized by Marc-André Hubin and Denys Bosselet, Paris, 1984. At the time of acquisition, this table was described to the purchasor as having personally belonged to Mollino.

    Mollino's creative and architectural portfolio was primarily concentrated upon private and commercial commissions in his native Turin, and unlike his compatriots, did not exhibit internationally at the Milan Triennales. In early 1950 Mollino was amongst several Italian designers and architects who were invited to contribute to the exhibition 'Italy at Work', which toured twelve American museums, starting at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. It is probably on the basis of that exhibition that Mollino had, by late 1950, been introduced by Gio Ponti to Joseph Singer, an American retailer who proposed that Mollino design a range of limited-production furniture for exposure to the US market. This initiative proved to be short-lived, and ultimately only two of Mollino's designs were selected, both occasional tables. One of the tables entered into modest production and had begun to be retailed by late 1951, as confirmed by the Domus reference in February 1952. This table was stylistically comparable to the present, ebonized version, however was marketed with either a natural or dark-brown stained frame, embellished with additional brass decoration. According to Singer publicity, these brass components included four squat cylindrical columns that raised the wooden frame from the floor, and elongated brass drops to the three screws that secured the upper surface. There also exist Singer variations with brass stiletto heels to the bend of the supports, or with a combination of types of feet and heels. It is probable that these decorative enhancements were applied in order to render the otherwise subtle design of the frame more appealing to the American market.

    As a prototype to the Singer-retailed examples, the present table differs most clearly by virtue of the polished, ebonized finish, with minimal brass hardware, which contributes greatly to the overall sculptural sensuality of the table's form. Of note are the slightly elongated spherical brass 'feet', which appear to be consistent with those used as spacers on other furnishings of the 1949-50 period, to include the desk chair of the Casa Orengo.

    Mollino's portfolio as a furniture designer was characterized by the reinterpretation and adaptation of persistent themes, which were reworked according to different applications. Consequently, the present ebonized occasional table warrants detailed comparison with the occasional table produced three years earlier for the Ada & Cesare Minola apartment, the Casa M-1 of 1946. The Minola example offers a sprightly, animalistic mobility compared to the present table's more relaxed sensuality. Both tables appear to be unique designs amongst Mollino's repertoire in that they feature ebonised frames. However, the most striking comparison lies with the probability that the frame of the Minola table was inverted, turned upside down, to create the basis for a more athletic, streamlined design. The present table, which is believed to be unique, can therefore be reviewed as offering an important illustration of Mollino's singular ability for the reinterpration of forms and the development of structures.

    Provenance

    Galerie Denys Bosselet, Paris, from whom purchased by the present owner on 25 June 1984.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY OF THE STEINBERG FOUNDATION


    Literature

    Domus, 267, February 1952, p. 51 (variation, retailed by Singer, illustrated)

    L'Étrange Univers de L'Architecte Carlo Mollino, exhibition catalogue, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, October 1989 - January 1990, p. 93 (drawings of tables submitted to Singer, including variation with brass caps to feet, illustrated)

    F. & N. Ferrari, The Furniture of Carlo Mollino, London, 2006, p. 108, pl. 130 (earlier variation, unique, Casa M-1, 1946, illustrated); p. 109; pls. 131,133 (Singer variation with four cylindrical brass feet and elongated brass screws to glass plate, illustrated)


    Exhibited

    Galerie Denys Bosselet, Carlo Mollion, Prémier Designer, Dernière Artisan, des Années '50, Paris, 1984.
    Design Museum, The Power of Erotic Design, 1 May - 12 October 1997, London.