An architect, designer, photographer, writer, pilot, and skier from Turin, Carlo Mollino was a multifaceted and out-of-the-box visionary artist who, thanks to his research and his continuous curiosity and experimentation, marked the history of architecture and design in Italy.
In particular, his furniture, often produced in unique pieces or in limited series, fuses the use of artisan construction techniques with experimentation with new materials and new technologies. Deeply fascinated by nature, Mollino repurposed its forms within his own artistic production, reworking them with extreme skill and mixing them with elements from Modernism, Art Nouveau, Surrealism, Baroque and Rococo.
Mollino dedicated his life to the pursuit of beauty and harmony, which led him to experiment with different languages and artistic fields and to decline his ingenious art into multiple forms. From architectural works to interior design to photography, his work was able to anticipate the times, proving to be still very relevant today.
Carlo Mollino’s iconic room divider is among the most notable lots in Cambi’s “Fine Design” catalog at auction on June 14, 2023. The design element was originally created for his photography studio located in the hills of Turin and dedicated to nude photography. This wood-framed room divider features a precious Baroque-style screen-printed decoration depicting hunting scenes.
The screen is a Chinese invention of about two thousand years ago and is an object strongly linked to Eros and concealment. Mollino began using this object in his photographic work in the early 1930s and carried it with him throughout his life along with very few other objects. It can be said that Mollino’s most important work was photography because it was the activity that he carried on constantly throughout his life, as opposed to his work as a designer.
Mollino, having been a very learned architect and having drawn inspiration from the architecture of Filippo Juvarra or Ascanio Vittozzi – architectures that “embrace” on a different scale, in a different time – constructs an architectural screen in front of which to place his subject. In this case, female bodies, not buildings. The real Mollino was a photographer of secret photographs, dedicated to himself, in which the screen appears as a backdrop, becoming a kind of hallmark and thread of his works. Mollino’s work was made up of creative research and objects and materials unearthed at the market or bought from antique dealers, with which he built his real, more hidden world.
“What, then, is this screen? It is the violin. The music is not the violin, but the violin is the element that allows the music to be performed. It is the alembic with which alchemists search for philosopher’s stones. What can we say about this object? We can say that it is a piece of Mollino, something intimately related to his essence.” Fulvio Ferrari of the Casa Mollino Museum in Turin explains.
Mollino is now recognized as one of the most fascinating personalities in the history of Italian architecture and design.
Cambi Auction House thanks Fulvio Ferrari and Napoleone Ferrari of the Casa Mollino Museum in Turin for cataloging the lot.