In December 1951, Carlo Mollino was invited to take part in Kunsthåndværkets forårsudstilling, the Spring Arts and Crafts Exhibition organized by the Danish Arts and Crafts Society, to be held in Copenhagen in 1952. Mollino enthusiastically accepted and proposed exhibiting a new type of chair in “continuous plywood” that he would create specifically for the occasion.
A year earlier in 1950, Mollino had just moved on from his elaborate solid wood sculpted furniture to experimenting with plywood. His first pieces in the medium, including examples related to the “Lattes” Chair (lot 314), were designed for the American travelling exhibition Italy at Work. Like Mollino’s earlier sculpted pieces, the new plywood furniture was characterized by extraordinary organic shapes that made them look like living creatures—elegant, seductive, and refined feminine creatures.
Mollino was intrigued by the idea of designing a piece made from a continuous plywood structure that would be a single, unified form, much like the human body and Japanese origami, supported only by some brass connections that could ideally be industrially produced. The design for this new chair had been conceived in August 1951 when Mollino was working on the commission for the Casa Editrice Lattes publishing house offices. It was one of the sixteen different furniture models Mollino submitted to Mr. Lattes, of which only a select few were actually produced. In January 1952, he had a single edition of the chair manufactured by the Apelli & Varesio workshop in Turin for 36,000 Italian Lire to be ready for the opening in Copenhagen on February 22, 1952.
The result would become known as the “Copenhagen” Chair, and is the only chair of its kind that was ever made. It stands out as a sculpture, and its innovative design and masterful execution in the plywood medium thrust forward the entire history of bent plywood furniture from a flat bi-dimensional look to a more complex structure. The plywood itself is skilfully carved, realizing the material’s full potential and making it look like a bone or a rock smoothed by the elements or over the course of centuries. This unique mix of technique and fantasy demonstrate Mollino’s talent as a surrealist engineer.
—Napoleone Ferrari, Founder and Curator, Museo Casa Mollino
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