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287

CARLO MOLLINO | AN IMPORTANT CHAIR

Estimate:

100,000 to - 150,000 USD

Property from a Private Collection, Italy

CARLO MOLLINO | AN IMPORTANT CHAIR

CARLO MOLLINO | AN IMPORTANT CHAIR

Estimate:

100,000 to - 150,000 USD

Lot sold:

125,000

USD

Property from a Private Collection, Italy

CARLO MOLLINO

AN IMPORTANT CHAIR


circa 1953

the model designed for the Casa Editrice Lattes, Turin, Italy

produced by Apelli & Varesio, Turin, Italy

ash, plywood, rubber, brass, fabric upholstery

34⅞ x 15 x 18¾ in. (88.5 x 38 x 47.6 cm)


The present lot is registered in the library of the Museo Casa Mollino, Turin, as number CM 327-1.

To request a condition report for this lot, please email 20thcenturydesign@sothebys.com.

Acquired directly from Apelli & Varesio by the family of Riccardo Moncalvo, principal photographer for Carlo Mollino, Turin, Italy, 1953

Thence by descent to the present owner, 1979  

Giovanni Brino, Carlo Mollino, architettura come autobiografia, Milan, 1985, p. 134

Hans Ibelings, Carlo Mollino – Vervlochten passies, Rotterdam, 1990, p. 19

Charlotte and Peter Fiell, 1000 Chairs, Cologne, 2000, p. 361

Fulvio and Napoleone Ferrari, The furniture of Carlo Mollino, London, 2006, pp. 173 and 228

Fulvio and Napoleone Ferrari, Carlo Mollino, arabeschi, Milan, 2006, p. 93

Chris Dercon, ed., Carlo Mollino: Maniera Moderna, exh. cat., Cologne, 2011, p. 305

L'étrange univers de Carlo Mollino 1905-1973, Centre Pompidou, Paris, October 4, 1989-January 29, 1990 and Nederlands Architectuurinstituut, Rotterdam, June 1-August 12, 1990

The present lot is registered in the library of the Museo Casa Mollino, Turin, as number CM 327-1.


The Lattes Chair: Fugitive Eroticism


Originally designed for the Lattes publishing house beginning in 1951, the chair is an essential component of one of Carlo Mollino's largest and most comprehensive commissions, which was finally completed by 1954. This compelling piece is somehow orphaned from that commission since it lacks a pair of connecting metal crossbars between the front and back legs as is the case with its counterparts in the group. It is possibly a prototype that was gifted to Riccardo Moncalvo, Mollino's most trusted interior photographer. It is a subtle work that exudes the confidence of an architect at the height of his creative powers.


All of Mollino’s production, whether architecture, interior design, or furniture stands apart in the last century for the way it is imbued with a wide range of personal interests from philosophy to fashion, aeronautics to eroticism while also resonating with a deep connection to the occult. This renders his work extremely complex to decipher.


The structure of this chair with a cartouche shaped back in molded plywood enlivened by exaggerated joint designs, harks back to previous one-offs, such as the chairs for the 1939 Casa G.A. and the 1946 Casa M3. This confirms that Mollino tends to work with the same typology time and again while always conjuring up up new visions. Besides his innovative solutions to bent plywood assembly, beyond his elegantly tapering wooden struts that successfully achieve the salient forms in tune with the 20th Century Modern idiom, Mollino deftly opens a link back into the 19th century with clever hints that are so subtle as to be almost hidden or fugitive. The aforementioned shield shaped back is but a cypher of the Belle Époque. Meanwhile, the ambiguously profiled brass joints take a step towards a Freudian universe so uncanny as to draw attention to themselves.


The vertical wooden struts are held in bondage to the back legs, setting off a string of meta-meanings intentional or not. Otherwise, with Mollino nothing is gratuitous, especially color. And that manifests itself in the upholstery choice for the seat. Giovanni Brino, his former student and biographer has noted, "The obsessive recurrence of certain colors in the manner of Huysmans, above all bright red, are symptomatic of erotic passion”. As a way to explain the meaning of color in his interiors Brino also mentions the numerous chromatic circles "drawn up by Mollino on the basis of manuals of rhabdomancy”.


In the end Mollino manipulates the anthropomorphic condition of furniture and transcends it to attain an unknowable reality tinged with brooding surrealism and an oddly sweet but humorous strain of poetics.


BRIAN KISH

Curator and specialist in 20th Century Italian architecture and design. Associate member of the Gio Ponti Archives since 2006.


Literature: Giovanni Brino, Carlo Mollino Architecture As Autobiography, Rizzoli, New York, 1987, p. 47