Gemma Acotto was a rich and intelligent woman from Turin, owner of a notary's office. Her great passion for furniture led her to choose the best names of Turin's architecture for her home: Ettore Sottsass Senior and Carlo Mollino. The intervention by Sottsass Sr. takes place in 1935 (Aa. vv, Ettore Sottsass Senior, Electa, Milan, 1991, p. 230) while Carlo Mollino’s work is dated 1952.
A surprising coincidence is that in the 1950s one of the most important of Mollino's clients, the Marquis Vladi Orengo, had the son of Sottsass Sr. (Ettore Sottsass Jr., who graduated from Turin Polytechnic in 1939) working with Carlo Mollino in his activity as an editor of art books, thus confirming the existence of a lively dialogue between the intellectuals in postwar Turin.
The furnishings of Gemma Acotto comprised the dining table with chairs, both seat and back upholstered, an important sideboard and a plywood furniture for the entrance, of which there is no documentation, a curved plywood table and armchairs, probably four. The furniture was executed by the exceptional artisans Apelli & Varesio. By virtue of the friendship with Gemma Acotto, we know that Mollino advised her to purchase two important Murano vases for the furnishing of her house (an Oriente by Aureliano Toso and a piece by Archimede Seguso) and in 1954, for the nephew's wedding, Mrs Colonna, Mollino was also in charge of decorating the home for the couple (see F. & N. Ferrari, The Furniture of Carlo Mollino, London, 2006, p.114).
The model of the Acotto armchair exemplifies Mollino's particular interest in fully upholstered armchairs, supported by small legs, of which there are many sketches, the first example made in 1939-40 for the Devalle house (Ibid., fig. 174) with a chesterfield finish and satin fabric. The structure is therefore completely hidden and specially shaped in order to allow a soft finish on the entire surface, a result that is easily obtained today with polyurethane foaming. In 1944-46 both the furnishings from Albonico (fig. 170) and the furniture for A. & C. Minola (figures 171 and 173) include all-round upholstered armchairs that meet ergonomic criteria for maximum comfort. In 1949 we find in the furniture of the Marquis Vladi Orengo an important innovation, still ergonomic, in the unique fireplace armchair (fig. 187). The wraparound back is padded with an original central relief that supports the spine allowing a perfect posture to the occupant. It is evident that, in the Accotto armchair, this measure becomes a not inconsiderable component of the aesthetics of the piece of furniture. Finally, the chair has been correctly re-upholstered with a velvet covering of a dense dark green colour of the type held very dear by the architect, who often used the same for the curtains of his interiors. This illustrates how the structure of this piece of furniture is engineered, the technical skill of the carpenter and how this is expressed by Mollino’s upholstery choices, with the aesthetics of the egg shape, all of which will come to characterize the fashion of the 1950’s.
The present armchair is registered in the library of the Museo Casa Mollino, Turin, as number 176-2
Christie's wishes to thank Fulvio Ferrari and Napoleone Ferrari, Museo Casa Mollino, Turin, for their assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.