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, Como, Italy) was an Italian entrepreneur, a light and lamp designer, and the 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 founded lighting company Lumen in 1936 in partnership with Aldo Valcarenghi and Dino Mondolfi. Three years later, Sarfatti decided to part ways with his partners and founded the light manufacturing company Arteluce in February 1939. read more

Gino Sarfatti with open arms
Portrait of Gino Sarfatti

To support his vision to modernize lighting design, Gino Sarfatti rapidly decided to open Arteluce’s first store in Milan at the centric and trendy Corso Littorio #12 location—now Corso Matteotti, and, in 1940, Arteluce participated in the VII Triennale di Milano. 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. But the situation in Italy was also rapidly changing and in 1943, Gino Sarfatti was forced by the racial laws of the Fascist government to leave Milan and fled with his family to Switzerland, leaving his bookkeeper and secretary, Pinuccia Azzaroni Bassani, to manage the day-to-day activities of Arteluce. Gino Sarfatti and his family returned to Milan in 1946, immediately after the Liberation.

Gino Sarfatti embarked on a transformative research journey to the United States in 1950. During his absence, he assigned the artistic direction of Arteluce to Vittoriano Viganò, who contributed his own design imprint by using metal cones and shapes to shed and project light along large arms. A stile that would impact Arteluce’s future aesthetic as well. In 1951 nine Arteluce models participated in the IX Triennale di Milano, and in 1952 Franco Albini included 12 Arteluce lights at the Paris exhibition of Italian Decorative Arts. In 1953, Gino Sarfatti decided that, after 14 years since its opening, it was time to give a new look to his store in Via Matteoti and selected Marco Zanuso to carry out the renovation.

In 1954 and 1955, Sarfatti received numerous international awards, including two Compasso d’Oro awards for his lamp designs for models 559 and 1055. In 1958, he designed the famous Pendant lamp, or chandelier, for Arteluce. In 1962, Sarfatti decided to open a much larger shop on Via della Spiga in Milan, this time designed by Vittorio Viganò.

Ceiling light designed by Gino Sarfatti and made by Arteluce
Gino Sarfatti light for Arteluce circa 1955

During the decade of the 1960s, Arteluce’s business grew rapidly not only with its lighting home designs sold in Italy and abroad, but also with its custom lighting designs for public buildings. As other important Italian designers, such as Nino Zoncada, Gustavo Pulitzer-FinalePaolo de PoliPietro Chiesa, and Gio Ponti, during this time Gino Sarfatti, through Arteluce, became involved in many interior and furniture design projects for the then rapidly growing industry of Italian ocean liners.

By the late 1960s, the complexity of Arteluce’s business had grown considerably and required a much larger managerial workforce. At this time, his sons and daughter-in-law joined the company, but Gino Sarfatti decided to sell Arteluce to FLOS in 1973 at the peak of its sales and profits.

Gino Sarfatti retired to live in Lake Como with Angela Regiroli and their daughter Micol, where he maintained a private life away from the design community.

Last updated: June 20, 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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