Important Design

Important Design

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 361. Easel.

Carlo Scarpa


Auction Closed

December 10, 11:19 PM GMT


80,000 - 120,000 USD

Lot Details


Carlo Scarpa


designed circa 1955, executed circa 1990s

produced by Studio Zanon, Venice

teak, patinated steel, brass

impressed with the artist's signature and the producer's mark

102 3/4 x 24 1/4 x 25 1/4 in. (260.9 x 61.5 x 64.1 cm)

Studio Zanon, Venice
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1990s
"L'opera di Scarpa al museo di Castelvecchio, a Verona," Domus, no. 369, August 1960, p. 51 (for period photographs of the model in the Castelvecchio Museum)
"L'opera di Carlo Scarpa alla Quadreria Correr, in Venezia," Domus, no. 388, March 1962, pp. 26 and 32-33 (for period photographs of the model in the Quadreria Correr)
Michael Brawne, The New Museum: Architecture and Display, Stuttgart, 1965, pp. 7, 57, 60-61 and 189 
Licisco Magagnato, ed., Carlo Scarpa a Castelvecchio, Milan, 1982, pp. 45 (for preparatory sketches) and 158 (for a period photograph of the model in the Castelvecchio Museum)
Richard Murphy, Carlo Scarpa and the Castelvecchio, London, 1990, p. 35 (for period photographs of the model in the Castelvecchio Museum)
Sergio Los, Carlo Scarpa, Trevignano, 1993, pp. 84-85 (for photographs of the model in the Castelvecchio Museum)
Carlo Scarpa, Mostre e Musei 1944-1976, Case e Paesaggi, 1972-1978, exh. cat., Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, and Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, Vicenza, 2000, p. 193 (for a period photograph of the model in the Castelvecchio Museum)
Italo Zannier and Guido Beltramini, ed., Carlo Scarpa: Architecture and Design, Venice, 2006, pp. 76-77 and 156 (for photographs of the model in the Castelvecchio Museum)
Robert McCarter, Carlo Scarpa, London, 2013, pp. 60, 155 and 157 

Born in Venice in 1906, Carlo Scarpa spent his life contributing to his city’s enduring legacy as an artistic and cultural center. As a glassmaker, he upheld his native region’s centuries-old tradition of expert craftsmanship in the medium, carrying it into the twentieth century with inventive new forms. As an architect, Scarpa similarly distinguished himself with modernist reinterpretations of ancient structures. In each of these endeavors, rather than sharply reject styles of the past as did many of his contemporaries, Scarpa embraced the opportunity to appreciate and build upon history.

An important example of this work came in 1952 when the Museo Correr commissioned Scarpa to rethink the presentation of its collection. Focused on the art and history of Venice, the museum’s holdings were spread across an early 19th Century Napoleonic palace and 16th Century Procuratie Nuove civic buildings in the Piazza San Marco. Following World War II and the end of Fascist rule, a nationwide call for reconstruction reached the interiors of museums like the Correr, which aspired to engage visitors anew. The project took a total of eight years for Scarpa to complete and represented a seamless union of Venice’s past and present. Maintaining the terrazzo floors and overall layout, Scarpa’s updates included painting the walls white, dynamically spacing pieces in new vitrines and singling out important sculpture on cantilevered steel mounts. Such sparing decoration enabled works of art to be viewed without distraction, while the precise linearity and cohesiveness of his choices established a natural progression through the museum. The easel played an integral role in Scarpa’s vision. Composed of teak, the easel stands on a T-shaped base of patinated steel with adjustable feet. Scarpa paid intense attention to the details of craftsmanship, adjoining the thin teak slats with elegant brass fittings to establish strong, minimalist lines that extend to an impressive eight and a half feet tall. The easel’s bracket can be lifted and lowered along this height to ensure that no matter the size of the painting on display, it addresses the visitor directly at eye level. Displaying paintings in this manner, taken off the wall and projected into the visitor’s space, Scarpa enhanced the three-dimensionality of the art and invited more active, personal engagement. His design principals prioritized the visitor’s experience and democratized the museum, and consequently remain deeply relevant to display techniques used today.

Scarpa went on to renovate four additional museums in Italy before his death in 1978, employing his signature easel in each to establish the same effect of clarity and harmony. All of the easels were manufactured in two workshops in Venice, operated by blacksmiths Paolo and Francesco Zanon and joiners Angelo and Saverio Anfodillo, respectively. In the 1990s, the Zanon brothers revived the iconic design and produced a contemporary limited edition of approximately twenty easels. This lot is an exceptional example from the series, impressed with the artist’s signature and producer’s mark.