The Georgia Museum of Art recently acquired four plates and a platter designed by Gio Ponti (1891–1979) a famous Milanese architect and designer. Ponti worked as the artistic director and designer for the Florentine firm Richard-Ginori, which manufactured ceramics, from 1923 to 1938: this served as the beginning of his long career designing other household and decorative items, such as furniture, glassware and silverware. He also designed apartment buildings, palazzos and public buildings of all types, including business towers and university buildings. He was the editor and founder of both Domus and Stile magazines, dedicated to Italian architecture and the decorative arts, and he served as professor of architecture at Politecnico di Milano University for 25 years.
Typical of Italian decorative arts in the 1920s and 1930s, Ponti appears to have been inspired by ancient classical artwork, in this case Etruscan. Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime encouraged a conscious return to Italy’s ancient roots, seeking to instill in all Italians a pride in their heritage and a belief that they were destined to rebuild the ancient Roman Empire. Although Ponti engaged with the Fascist regime and shared its appreciation for classical culture, he was essentially apolitical.
Ponti also appears to have been inspired by scenes from contemporary life, as the charming circus figures on these platters show. Later in his career, he became known for his sleek, modern designs, such as his Superleggera furniture and the Pirelli Tower. An artist and visionary of extraordinary versatility, Ponti’s life and work will be highlighted in an upcoming summer 2017 exhibition at the Georgia Museum of Art, which will focus on his furniture design.
For more information about Gio Ponti and his art: www.gioponti.com.