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Chair - Model 4801
  • Model 4801
    Colombo, Joe Cesare, born 1930 - died 1971
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Model 4801

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Milan (designed)
    Milan (manufactured)

  • Date:

    1963 (designed)
    1964-70 (Manufactured)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Colombo, Joe Cesare, born 1930 - died 1971 (designer)
    Kartell (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Moulded plywood with pigmented polyester varnish, rubber spacers

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Furniture, Room 135, The Dr Susan Weber Gallery, case BY5, shelf WALL

At first glance the glossy surface and bright colour might make you think this chair is made of plastic, especially since both the designer and the manufacturer are well-known for their 1960s plastic furniture. In fact, the chair is made of just three bent and pressed plywood elements simply slotted together. Any sense of the material as wood is obliterated by the coat of polyester varnish, making it appear entirely synthetic.

Kartell was founded by Giulio Castelli, a chemical engineer, in 1949 and was at the forefront of plastics technology. In 1964 Kartell first produced this chair and the first all-plastic chair, also designed by Colombo. This chair, therefore, sits at the cusp of the shift away from plywood (the material-of-choice for advanced designers since the 1930s) towards the new plastics. In this chair, the old technology is masquerading as the new technique.

Physical description

Chair formed from three bent and pressed plywood elements slotted together using rubber spacers. The whole is painted with orange polyester varnish during a highly industrialised process requiring the combined spraying of a catalyst and the pigmented polyester which mix at the nozzle. The finish is then buffed when dry.

Place of Origin

Milan (designed)
Milan (manufactured)


1963 (designed)
1964-70 (Manufactured)


Colombo, Joe Cesare, born 1930 - died 1971 (designer)
Kartell (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Moulded plywood with pigmented polyester varnish, rubber spacers


Height: 58.2 cm, Width: 72 cm, Depth: 65.7 cm, Height: 34 cm seat

Descriptive line

Chair, model 4801, designed by Joe Colombo, 1963, manufactured by Kartell, Italy, 1964-70, bent and pressed plywood, orange polyester varnish

Labels and date

CHAIR, model 4801

Designed by Joe Colombo (Italian, 1930-1971), 1963
Manufactured by Kartell, Milan, Italy
Moulded plywood with polyester varnish

The chair is comprised of three elements which slot together, requiring no fixing.

Circ.214-1970 [1989-2006]
Armchair, model 4801
Joe Colombo (1930–71)

Manufactured 1964–70 by Kartell, Milan
Moulded plywood with pigmented polyester varnish (probably original)
Spacers: rubber

Museum no. Circ.214-1970

What appears here to be moulded plastic is in fact bent plywood with a sprayed polyester varnish. At this period, plastic was gradually replacing wood for mass-produced seating, so the chair is a witty reversal of general practice.

Spray painting using a compressor was commonly used on furniture, both wood- and metal-framed, after 1945.


Plywood; Polyester


Moulding; Varnishing


Furniture; Plastic


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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