Gino Sarfatti’s story is one of perseverance and creativity. Born into an affluent family in Venice, Sarfatti originally studied to be an aeronautical engineer. However the political and economical instability and turmoil during the 1930s forced Gino Sarfatti to discontinue his education and move to Milan, taking up a job working for a glass manufacturer.
It was during this time that Sarfatti was asked by an acquaintance to convert a vase into a lamp. This process sparked his interest in lighting, and he slowly started designing and building lighting. In 1939, Gino Sarfatti founded Arteluce to manufacture his lighting designs. The wide appeal for his designs saw Sarfatti’s works displayed at design showcases, and led to Arteluce’s rapid expansion in the following years.
In 1943, Arteluce was met with a setback when, due to racial laws and the ongoing war, Gino Sarfatti had to flee Milan with his family. Entrusting the company in the hands of his secretary, Sarfatti took refuge in Switzerland. He was able to return to Milan and his position at the helm of Arteluce following Italy’s liberation a few years later.
Gino Sarfatti strongly believed in lighting that was rational. His designs were Modernist in nature while being firmly rooted in utility. At a time when most designers were architects and graduates of art schools, Sarfatti chose to learn by immersing himself in the lighting manufacturing process. This gave him a greater understanding of technical details, which in turn enabled him to experiment with a wider variety of materials and designs. Working with modern materials and sources like halogen bulbs and plexiglass, Sarfatti created unconventional designs. His design for Model 2130 (also referred to as Moon) used perspex with aluminium and lacquered metal to form an ethereal pendant light. Model 537, a table lamp, was given a luxe look inspired by trees, with a brass stem that connected the aluminium reflector to a marble base.
Each of the three materials used in the design fulfilled their functional roles while coming together to create a highly pleasing palette. Gino Sarfatti’s designs were not just limited to homes. Working together with designer and architect Carlo Mollino in 1973, Sarfatti designed monumental lighting installations for the Royal Theatre in Turin. This magnificent light installation is simply known as the Cloud, and is still in use in the theatre today.
Sarfatti’s lamps can easily be mistaken for something designed in the 21st century, and that is an endorsement of the visionary nature of his work. It is also the reason why several of Sarfatti’s lighting designs have been reissued in recent years with all but minor changes to the designs, such as incorporating LED bulbs. His iconic designs - which include the sleek Model 1063 Floor Lamp, and the La Sfere Collection of lamps of which variants are used in the Royal Theater of Turin - look just as elegant in a minimalist home in 2020 as they did in a Modernist home of the 70s.