Arabesque thumbnail 1
Arabesque thumbnail 2
+2
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Furniture, Room 133, The Dr Susan Weber Gallery

Arabesque

Table
1949 (designed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Although it is functional, this table looks like a piece of sculpture. Its undulating curves were inspired by the work of Surrealist artists, in particular Jan Arp's flowing lines and biomorphic shapes. The shape of the table top was based on the outlines of a woman's torso. Mollino had traced it from a drawing by the Italian Surrealist Leonor Fini (1908-1996). In 1950 the table was included in a major exhibition of Italian design called Italy at Work: Her Renaissance in Design Today. The Italian government sent this travelling exhibition around America.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Plywood and glass, with brass fittings The tiny marks on the edges of the glass top are from pincers that lifted the glass before it was entirely cold.
Brief Description
'Arabesque' table designed by Carlo Mollino, 1950s, plywood and glass
Physical Description
Low tea table of bent plywood with a glass top and shelf. The sheet of plywood that forms the base has been bent into a series of curves and pierced with five irregular, curved cutouts. The glass top which is fixed to the plywood base with brass fasteners, is also of irregular shape and has curved edges. The shelf is shorter and narrower than the top, but has a similar curved shape. The table is further supported at one end by two small brass feet which are fixed to the plywood base.
Dimensions
  • Height: 98cm
  • Width: 86.8cm (Note: The sloping top is H: 62.5 x W: 86cm (34 x 24 1/2"); excluding edge battens: 54 x 75cm (21 1/4 x 29 1/2"))
  • Depth: 56cm
  • Weight: 52kg (Note: Weighed 26/3/2021)
Styles
Gallery Label
  • Tea-Table Designed by Carlo Mollino (Italian, 1905-1973) Manufactured by Apelli & Varesio, Turin, Italy, 1949 Plywood and glass with brass fittings W.7-1985 State involvement with design in Italy was less interventionist than in Britain, but the Italian government actively promoted Italian design and industry after the Second World War. In addition to the three-yearly design exhibitions (Triennale) held in Milan, the Italian government sent a major travelling exhibition around America in 1950. Entitled 'Italy at work: her Renaissance in Design Today', the exhibition included this table.(1993)
  • ‘Arabesque’ table 1949 Designed by Carlo Mollino (1905–73) Italy Manufactured by Apelli & Varesio, Turin Plywood and glass Fittings: brass, with modern replacement bracket in Perspex Museum no. W.7-1985 Mollino was an engineer and architect whose many passions included racing cars, photography and women. This table is perhaps his most famous furniture design. Its glass top followed the outline shape of a woman’s back in a drawing by the Surrealist artist Léonor Fini. Both pieces of glass also have a structural function in bracing the lightweight plywood base. Daring cut-outs make the plywood flexible and transparent. (01/12/2012)
Object history
According to Stephen N. Cristiea the table is one of only three examples known.
Summary
Although it is functional, this table looks like a piece of sculpture. Its undulating curves were inspired by the work of Surrealist artists, in particular Jan Arp's flowing lines and biomorphic shapes. The shape of the table top was based on the outlines of a woman's torso. Mollino had traced it from a drawing by the Italian Surrealist Leonor Fini (1908-1996). In 1950 the table was included in a major exhibition of Italian design called Italy at Work: Her Renaissance in Design Today. The Italian government sent this travelling exhibition around America.
Bibliographic References
  • Jervis, Simon, 'Echoes Over Two Centuries. Two newly acquired Italian tables at the V&A'. Country Life 6 June 1985, pp. 1586-1590.
  • Wood, Ghislaine (ed.), Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design, London : V & A Publications, 2007V&A only
Collection
Accession Number
W.7-1985

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdMarch 6, 2003
Record URL