A 1950s ‘Fantasy Home’ by Gio Ponti recreated for landmark auction at Phillips London

A 1950s ‘Fantasy Home’ by Gio Ponti recreated for landmark auction at Phillips London

Gio Ponti could play it straight when he had to (think Milan’s Pirelli Tower or his La Cornuta espresso machine for Pavoni), but should a freewheeling client come along, the Italian architect’s imagination would let loose. Nowhere more so than in private homes, where he would call on his key creative collaborators – Lucio Fontana, Piero Fornasetti, Nanda Vigo – and almost every other talented craftsperson working in Italy in the postwar period, to create remarkable domestic mise en scenes.

Perhaps the most daring of them is La Casa di Fantasia. Created in 1951 for La famiglia Lucano in an apartment block in central Milan, every surface, from floors to walls to wardrobes, was decorated. Piero Fornasetti papered the walls with images of playing cards and books, Fausto Melotti sculpted soap dishes for the bathroom walls and Ponti’s own surreal figurines, inspired by La Commedia dell Arte, were displayed throughout.

One of a pair of side chairs, circa 1951, by Gio Ponti and Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988), lithographic transfer-printed wood, walnut, and silk, executed by Giordana Chiesa, Milan. Est. £8,000-£12,000.

‘Every single surface was treated to create a magical moment,’ says Domenico Raimondo, head of design for Europe at Phillips auction house. ‘The space was so extreme. With its mirrored doors and surprise through-views from one room to another, it resembled a series of stage sets through which its occupants were free to roam without a role.’

The apartment is currently being recreated in London in the Phillips showroom in preparation for an auction of key pieces on 21 March. More than 30 lots will feature, among them a chest of drawers by Ponti with painted glass by illustrator Edina Altara (estimate £45,000-65,000), Ponti’s Positivo-negativo wall mounted cabinet (£40,000-£60,000) and several of his statuettes, among them his king and queen (£15,000-£20,000).

Illuminated ‘Positivo-negativo’ wall-mounted cabinet with tower and king statuettes, circa 1951, by Gio Ponti (1891-1979)East Indian rosewood, veneered wood, painted wood, glazed earthenware, cabinet made by Giordana Chiesa and statuettes produced by Gabbianelli. Est. £40,000-60,000

‘The Ponti school was enormous,’ explains Raimondo, who is holding the sale in conjunction with Italian auction house Cambi. ‘Casa di Fantasia, with its extraordinary metaphysical scenery, incorporates some of its most iconic and sought after pieces.’ By the time he died in 1979, Ponti was celebrated as a key midcentury polymath. What’s more, adds Raimondo: ‘One of the attractions of Italian design from this era is that was generally created by architects rather than decorators, and as such, it has a certain rigour.’ §

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