Universal Lanterns

Fontana Arte from the Collection of Howard Hoffman

Stars by Maxfield Parrish, 1927

Howard Hoffman was first introduced to the world of lighting at the Philadelphia design shop, OLC. He recalls the experience with an air of romance, and describes feeling enamored with the light—the same feeling one gets underneath the stars. He began collecting shortly thereafter, frequenting showrooms and warehouses in the Philadelphia area to snatch-up examples of the postmodern designs that were taking over the scene. As a result, Hoffman was introduced to the head of sales for the iconic Italian glassworks, Fontana Arte and began ordering designs en masse. 

Works by luminaries including Gae Aulenti, Piero Castiglioni, Pietro Chiesa, Michele de Lucchi and Umberto Riva filled his shelves and Hoffman began dealing himself. He describes the period as an idealistic time, fueled by a principal belief that design was a universal language and lights were universal lanterns. Recounting the moment, Hoffman evokes the 1927 painting Stars by Maxfield Parrish. Seated on the coastline, a woman gazes reverently at the night sky. Scattered stars illuminate the canopy above and daylight fades into the horizon. The experience is universally understood and appreciated by anyone who has contemplated the night sky, and the same holds true for good design. The works offered here are from Hoffman’s personal collection and have illuminated rooms and minds for over 20 years.