Portrait of Italian light designer and founder of Arteluce Gino Sarfatti smoking a pipe looking away from the camera

Gino Sarfatti

Italian light designer and entrepreneur

Gino Sarfatti (born September 16 1912, Venice, Italy–died March 6, 1985, Griante, Italy) was an Italian entrepreneur, light and lamp designer, and founder of Italian light manufacturing company Arteluce. He was born into a family of relative wealth as his father, Riccardo Sarfatti, was a prosperous Jewish food trader, and his mother, Lucia Zuccoli, was from a prominent Catholic family of Trieste. In 1930, Gino moved to Genoa to enroll in the Faculty of Aeronaval Engineering.

In 1935, a sea embargo was placed on Italy by the League of Nations, in retaliation to Mussolini’s government, and the family’s economic situation worsened considerably. At 23, Gino Sarfatti interrupted his studies and moved to Milan, where he first founded, in 1936, in partnership with Aldo Valcarenghi and Dino Mondolfi, Lumen lighting company.  Three years later, Sarfatti decided to split and founded the light manufacturing company Arteluce in February 1939; which became the enabler of his creative brilliance. read more

In order to support his vision to modernize lighting design, Gino Sarfatti rapidly decided to open Artleuce’s first store in Milan at the centric and trendy Corso Littorio #12 location—now Corso Matteotti. During this time, Arteluce also became a frequent meeting place for many of the leading Italian mid-century designers, including Franco AlbiniGianfranco Frattini, Ico Parisi and Vittorio Viganò. In 1943, Gino Sarfatti was forced by the racial laws of the Fascist government to leave Milan and fled with his family to Switzerland, letting his bookkeeper and secretary manage the day-to-day activities of Arteluce.  But Gino Sarfatti and his family retuned to Milan in 1946, immediately after the Liberation.

As with other important Italian designers, such as Nino Zoncada, Gustavo Pulitzer-Finale, Paolo de PoliPietro Chiesa, and Gio Ponti, Gino Sarfatti became involved in many interior and furniture design projects for the then rapidly growing industry of Italian ocean liners.

Gino Sarfatti embarked on a transformative research journey to the United States in 1950, at the same time that he founded ArCom, a contemporary furniture company that experienced international success. During his absence, he assigned the artistic direction of Arteluce to Vittoriano Viganò, who contributed with his own design imprint and important light designs.  In 1953, the Italian designer Marco Zanuso was selected to redesign, with Sarfatti, Arteluce’s Corso Littorio store in Milan.

In 1954 and 1955, Sarfatti received numerous international awards, including two Compasso d’Oro awards for his designs for models 559 and 1055. In 1958, he designed the famous Pendant lamp, or chandelier, for Arteluce. In 1962, together with Vittorio Viganò, he opened a shop in Via della Spiga in Milan.

Last updated: April 4, 2019

For more information on Gino Sarfatti, please visit the following:

Gino Sarfatti, Master of light

The biography of Gino Sarfatti at USA.Flos.com.


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