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’s lamps are sculptural luminous objects with which he wanted to make light mobile, freeing it from the laces of the typical location of bourgeois houses in the years preceding the Second World War.”

Piero Gandini

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.

Gino Sarfatti Lighting Designer and Founder of Arteluce

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. First working as a distributor of a glass manufacturer, but shortly, and by accident, the young Sarfatti found himself making and designing lighting fixtures.

Relating this passage later in his life, Sarfatti mentioned: “One day, a friend of my father asked me to mount a lampshade on a Murano vase. I took the initiative and placed the vase on a reflector that was part of an old coffee machine, and so I got a light to write and also to illuminate the whole room…I started like this.” First, 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 Collaboration with Vittoriano Viganò and Other Architects

In 1950, Gino Sarfatti embarked on a transformative research journey to the United States. 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 1960s, Arteluce’s business grew rapidly not only with its lighting home designs sold in Italy and abroad, but also with its custom Gino Sarfatti 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.

Interior of Teatro Regio in Turin
Interior of the Teatro Regio in Turin designed by Carlo Mollino with lighting designed by Gino Sarfatti (photo Simone Solinas creative commons)

In 1973, Gino Sarfatti collaborated with Carlo Mollino and created several grand lighting fixtures for the Teatro Regio in Turin. Including large scale Le Sfere versions and the majestic “cloudlike” Nuvola installation within the concert hall.

Sale of Arteluce to FLOS

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.

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

Gino Sarfatti, Master of light

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

Last updated: April 8, 2020

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Gino Sarfatti's products

Gino Sarfatti's products

Gino Sarfatti
Wall lamp model 226 /a

Gino Sarfatti
Desk lamp, model 607

Gino Sarfatti
Floor lamp, model 1056

Gino Sarfatti and Vittoriano Viganò
Wall light, model 199

Gino Sarfatti
Wall light, model 225

Gino Sarfatti
Rare wall light, model 169/4

Gino Sarfatti
Single wall light

Gino Sarfatti
Wall lamp model 197

Gino Sarfatti
Table lamp model 543

Gino Sarfatti
Wall light, model 208

Gino Sarfatti
Table light model 580/B

Gino Sarfatti
Wall lamps model 249

Gino Sarfatti
Ceiling light model 3010

Gino Sarfatti
Table lamp, model 566

Gino Sarfatti
Floor lamp, model 1056

Gino Sarfatti
Adjustable wall light, model 181

Gino Sarfatti
Floor lamp model 1050/1

Gino Sarfatti
Chandelier model 2097

Gino Sarfatti
Ceiling light model 3010

Gino Sarfatti
Floor lamp, model 1056

Gino Sarfatti
Table or wall lamp

Gino Sarfatti
Pair of ceiling lights model 3010

Gino Sarfatti
Floor light model 1067

Gino Sarfatti
Floor lamp mod. 1033a

Gino Sarfatti
Ceiling light, model 3053

Gino Sarfatti
Wall light, model 43

Gino Sarfatti
Wall light, model 213

Gino Sarfatti
Wall sconce, model 169/2

Gino Sarfatti
Wall or desk light, model 551/31B

Gino Sarfatti
Pair of wall/ceiling lights, mod. 3031

Gino Sarfatti
Table lamp, model 566

Gino Sarfatti
Wall light, model 211 - pair

Gino Sarfatti
Floor lamp, model 1030

Gino Sarfatti
Wall or ceiling light, model 3031

Gino Sarfatti
Desk lamp, model 606

Gino Sarfatti
Adjustable floor lamp mod. 1030

Gino Sarfatti
Wall or ceiling light, model 586/s

Gino Sarfatti
Wall or ceiling light model 3030

Gino Sarfatti
Drawing of the ceiling light, model 2003

Gino Sarfatti
Ceiling light, model 3001/50

Gino Sarfatti
Wall lamp, model 218

Gino Sarfatti
Wall light - model 34

Gino Sarfatti
Drawing of the wall light, model 191

Gino Sarfatti
Ceiling light model 3001/30

Gino Sarfatti
Wall or ceiling light, model 3001/14

Gino Sarfatti and Vittoriano Viganò
Wall light, model 199

Gino Sarfatti
Ceiling lamp model 2049

Gino Sarfatti
Pair of wall lights

Gino Sarfatti
Wall light model 179

bibliography


Silvana Annicchiarico

Gino Sarfatti: Il Design della Luci / Designing Light

Corraini Edizioni

Mantova (2014)

 

Marco Romanelli, Sandra Sevelli

Gino Sarfatti: Opere Scelte / Selected Works 1938 – 1973

Silvana Editoriale

Milan (2012)

 

Roberto Sarfatti

Il fascino delle lampade di Gino Sarfatti

Milan (2011)

 

Frédéric Leibovitz

Gino Sarfatti

Galerie Christine Diegoni

Paris (2008)