By 1950 Carlo Mollino was already well-established as a talented and visionary designer, having delivered numerous interior design schemes and furnishings to Turinese friends and clients. Mollino was, therefore, a natural choice for Mario Lattes, who in 1951 was seeking to re-design the interior of his eponymous publishing house. The commission proved to be the most expansive taken on by Mollino to date, with a variety of furnishings required for the various operational elements of the interior. Mollino designed three desk types, including the present example. This design, with a surface supported on angled trestle supports, invoked Mollino's interest in vernacular Alpine furniture and architecture, and represented a stylistic refinement of an earlier work table, designed two years prior for Reale Mutua insurance offices. The desk was designed to be accompanied by a separate, removable drawer case unit, with an option for both right-hand and left-hand versions. Ever the engineer, Mollino selected a new bonded wood fibre product - Fibrosil - to serve as the top surfaces of the desks, in order to muffle the sound of the clerk's typewriters.
Fulvio and Napoleone's Ferrari's 2006 furniture reference (op. cit., p. 227) states that Mollino intended seven examples to be delivered to Lattes, however it is not known if the full complement of desks were in fact delivered. Furthermore, natural attrition through use over a thirty-year period, before the Lattes offices were cleared in the mid-1980s, would have further diminished the chances of survival of remaining examples. To date, only two other surviving examples can be identified from recent photographs published in existing references. One, a left-hand version, lacking the drawer case unit, is illustrated in the Ferrari furniture reference (op. cit., p. 138, pl. 226). A second desk, with a drawer case mounted to the right, is also published (op. cit., p. 139, pl. 228). This latter example features highly distinctive figuring to the grain of the ash drawer fronts, which allows it to be identified as the same example that is also published in the Brino, Bangert, De Guttry and Colombari references (op. cit.). This is the same desk, now in a European private collection, that was published in the 'Carlo Mollino: Arabesques' catalogue for the 2006 retrospective at the G.A.M., Turin. The present lot, which has resided in two British private collections for the last two decades, represents a scarce opportunity to engage with an important work from one of Mollino's most historic interiors.