Influential Forms

Pietro Chiesa and Gio Ponti

One of the most important designs of the 1930s, this work is from an early series of lamps designed by Pietro Chiesa for Fontana Arte. The long central stem from which plant-like arms extend, the visible bulbs as well as the lantern-like finial are all in the Liberty Style revealing Chiesa’s classical education. Yet, this work is very modern with its graceful, clean lines and, above all, its elliptical crystal panes.

Fontana Arte showroom in Rome, 1938. Fontana Arte: Una Storia Trasparente, Falconi

Chiesa's sconce in an interior by Melchiorre Bega, 1938. Fontana Arte: Una Storia Trasparente, Falconi

This series was a favorite of Gio Ponti’s and he used many examples of this form for his Palazzo Liviano (1937-1940). Ponti’s Pirelli Tower (1960), one of his most important architectural projects, recalls the elliptical shape and in 1967 Ponti pays tribute to Chiesa’s designs upon his return to Fontana Arte as artistic director; his Pirellina lamps directly reference this early Chiesa lamp. In fact because of Ponti’s conviction for Chiesa’s works they are often misattributed as his own design.

Ponti's Pirelli Tower, 1960 and Ponti's Pirelli lamps for Fontana Arte, 1968. Gio Ponti: Interni, Oggetti, Disegni 1920-1976, Falconi

This equipment is the result of Pietro Chiesa's vast experience, combining efficient lighting and structural practicality with the most ingenious means of light and ground, sand-blasted and painted crystal; luminous fantasies in which Chiesa is a master of the utmost elegance.

—Gio Ponti