Fornasetti Coffee Table Fornasetti Coffee Table Fornasetti Coffee Table Fornasetti Coffee Table Fornasetti Coffee Table Fornasetti Coffee Table Fornasetti Coffee Table Fornasetti Coffee Table Fornasetti Coffee Table Fornasetti Coffee Table
Vecchie carte e oggenti (Old Cards and Objects), A Lithographically Transfer-Printed Coffee Table

By Piero Fornasetti, circa 1950s
Lacquer and brass base designed by Gio Ponti

With the firm's original paper label

19 ½ in (50 cm) high, 39 1/3 in (100 cm) wide, 19 ½ in (50 cm) deep

cf. Barnaba Fornasetti, ed., Fornasetti: The Complete Universe, 2010, p. 389, no. 173
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Born in Milan, Italy, Piero Fornasetti was a painter, sculptor, interior decorator, engraver of books. Fornasetti began drawing seriously at the age of ten and from then on eagerly explored the disciplines and techniques of the applied arts, from painting to sculpture, plastic art to frescoes, wood and metal engraving to lithography. A true maverick, Fornasetti ignored his father’s advice to become an accountant and studied for two years at the Brera Academy of Art in Milan. His first artwork was shown in 1933 as part of a student exhibition at Milan University. He designed ties, women’s bathing suits, and silk scarves that displayed his favourite images – architectural structures, the sun, and nautical life. His focus moved away from printed silk to three-dimensional furniture and objects, still with his characteristic ironic wink. The pieces were always highly theatrical – his family had been active on the stage – and exuded the black-and-white glamour and allure of a 1940s studio set.

In 1936, he met the renowned architect-designer Gio Ponti (1897-1979) by brashly submitting silk scarves printed with architectural motifs and newsprint to Italy’s Triennal design competition (for a tea service). His entry was dismissed as irrelevant, but his bravado won Ponti’s admiration, and a collaboration was born. Fornasetti was conscripted into the army during World War II. When the rest of his unit was sent to Albania, Fornasetti was assigned the task of painting the regimental barracks in the Piazza San Ambrogio, Milan. He was then later exiled to Switzerland where he designed his famous foulard (scarf) designs for a Swiss textile firm. In 1944, the first exhibition devoted to Fornasetti’s work was held at the Foyer des Etudiants in Geneva. Gio Ponti, who was 24 years Fornasetti’s senior, directed his prodigy toward the decorative arts. A founding editor of the influential architectural periodical Domus, he commissioned Fornasetti to illustrate several of its covers. The pair also designed interiors for the ill-fated ocean liner Andrea Doria, collaborated on furnishing the ballroom of the New York’s Time-Life Building in 1963 and, in honour of the first post-war Triennal design competition, produced a drop-front secretaire printed with a pastiche of architectural motifs. The prototype is now owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Fornasetti’s most profound contribution to the modern movement may have been to ease certain distinctions between architecture, decoration and furniture design. A metaphysical design magician, he reconciled these art forms with his own capricious and joyful visual language. The ‘pa of faux’, as he was known, also championed the forward-thinking notion of serial production. Piero Fornasetti died in Milan during a minor hospital treatment on 15th October 1988.