Gio Ponti, ‘Pair of armchairs, model no. 533, designed for the ballroom of the Giulio Cesare transatlantic ocean liner’, ca. 1950, Phillips

Each: 83.8 x 69.9 x 74.9 cm

From the Catalogue:
The interior design of ocean liners played an important role in Gio Ponti’s diverse career while also helping define mid-century Italian style. In the interwar period, ocean liners emerged as wellsprings of modern design and luxury lifestyle, and the status of the ocean liner as the primary mode of stylish international travel continued into the 1950s. These magnificent technological vessels were ideal canvases for designers and architects to showcase their most progressive designs. Ponti recognised the significance of ocean-liner design early on. In a Domus article from 1931 called 'Naval Furnishings Today and Tomorrow,' he expounded his belief that the design in ocean liners should represent the pinnacle of a nation’s progress as a civilisation. Thus, he felt that ocean liners provided an ideal platform to expose the world to Italian design. Ponti also promoted his philosophy that modern design should embrace simplicity and quality, an enlightened stance at odds with the then current trend in ship interiors toward ostentation.

Ponti’s engagement with ship design continued into the postwar period by participating in a major initiative to refurbish and reconstruct Italy’s great ocean liners from before the war. Not only did this effort assist the rehabilitation of the Italian economy, but it contributed to the rise of Italian design in the 1950s. Ponti, along with Nino Zoncada, oversaw the interior design of the Italian Line, a fleet that included the marvelous Giulio Cesare. The pair of chairs in the present lot, designed for the ballroom of the Giulio Cesare, epitomise Ponti’s continued devotion to a purified form and quality craftsmanship. International reception of the ship confirms the extent that Ponti encouraged the emerging view toward Italy as a pioneer in modern design. Reporting on the launch of the ship in 1950, The New York Times stated, 'The furnishings of the Giulio Cesare will make her one of the most luxurious liners afloat.'
Courtesy of Phillips

About Gio Ponti

It takes a native son to build something as iconic as the Pirelli Tower, Gio Ponti’s 1960 masterpiece that soars over Milan. In 1928, the prolific architect and designer founded Domus, the influential design magazine to which he would contribute for the rest of his life. Along with building projects like the elegant Villa Planchart in Caracas, Ponti designed a number of now-iconic products, including the lightweight Superleggera chair and the curvy La Pavoni coffee machine of 1948. He was an enthusiastic leader of the post-war reconstruction, and a major influence on younger designers including Alessandro Mendini and Ettore Sottsass. In 2011, his prolific and wide-ranging career was the subject of the exhibition “Expressions of Gio Ponti” at the Triennale Museum in Milan. "Love architecture, be it ancient or modern,” Ponti said. “Love it for its fantastic, adventurous and solemn creations; for its inventions; for the abstract, allusive and figurative forms that enchant our spirit and enrapture our thoughts. Love architecture, the stage and support of our lives."

Italian, 1891-1979