Design Masterworks 17 November 2016

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Gio Ponti and Erwin Walter Burger

Rare mirror with console

Fontana Arte
c. 1947
reverse etched and painted St. Gobain glass, mirrored glass, brass
30 w x 6 d x 42 h in (76 x 15 x 107 cm)

estimate: $30,000–50,000

Collaboration between designers and artists is a tradition which began at Fontana Arte in the 1930s. Erwin Burger’s tenure at Fontana Arte began under the direction of Pietro Chiesa and continued with Gio Ponti in the 1940s. This rare, reverse-painted glass mirror and console laid the groundwork for the highly successful and creative collaboration of Max Ingrand and Dulio Barnabe in the 1950s.

Signed with applied foil manufacturer's label to mirror: [fa Cristallo St. Gobain]. Signed with decal label to console: [Kunstglas Burger]. Sold with a certificate of expertise from the Gio Ponti Archives.

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Gio Ponti


Gio Ponti excelled at painting as a child and expressed a fervent interest in the arts. Feeling that a career in architecture was preferable to that of a painter, Ponti’s parents encouraged him to pursue the former and in 1914 he enrolled at the Faculty of Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano. His studies were interrupted by war, and in 1915 he was forced to postpone his education. He served as a captain in the Pontonier Corps until 1919, earning multiple military honors. After graduating in 1921, Ponti married Giulia Vimercati, the daughter of local aristocracy and started an architecture firm. During this time, Ponti aligned himself with the neoclassical movement, Novecento and championed a revival of the arts and culture. In 1928, Ponti founded Domus, a periodical tailored to artists and designers, as well as the broader public. A shift occurred in the 1930s when Ponti took up a teaching post at his alma mater, the Politecnico di Milano. In search of new methods to express Italian modernity, Ponti distanced himself from the sentiments of Novecento and sought to reconcile art and industry. Together with the engineers, Eugenio Soncini and Antonio Fornaroli, Ponti enjoyed great success in the industrial sector, securing various commissions throughout Italy. In the 1950s, he gained international fame with the design of the Pirelli Tower in Milan and he was asked to be a part of the urban renewal of Baghdad, collaborating with top architects from around the world. His 1957 book, Amate l’architettura, is considered to be a microcosm of his work —an incredible legacy spanning art, architecture, industrial design, publishing and academia.