Ettore Sottsass Daybed, Red Lacquered Wood, Chartreuse Upholstery, Italy c. 1962


Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007)

A lively and playful modernist daybed or sofa by Memphis Milano founder Ettore Sottsass, in red lacquered walnut with a black-upholstered cushion and two bolster pillows in chartreuse.

An early work by the revolutionary designer and eventual gray eminence of postmodernism, the piece marks an important transitional period as Sottsass moved away from strict functionalism to incorporate ideas from contemporary art, art history, and religion. The sofa eschews the man-made materials of his later Memphis Group works, but anticipates them in its vivid palette. “Every color has a history,” Sottsass said. “Red is the color of the Communist flag, the color that makes a surgeon move faster, and the color of passion.” Indeed, the sensuality of the sofa’s hues whimsically counterbalances its functional, minimalist forms. The staggered repetition of the frame’s vertical slats, alternating between wide and narrow, forecast the stripes of Sottsass’s Nefertiti desk and Superbox cabinets of the late 1960s, and from there his Memphis work of the 1980s. They testify to his interest, at this pivotal stage, in both Italy’s striped Romanesque cathedrals and the developing currents of Minimalist painting, while the bold colors indicate his sensitivity to Pop Art. Together, they demonstrate that the the spirited designer, while provocative and irreverent (he would later turn Art Deco and Bauhaus forms on their head), was never ignorant of patrimony.

In 1963, around the time he designed this daybed, Sottsass told Gio Ponti’s Domus magazine: “I have tried to collect the shapes, colors and symbols that could represent the change in the images of this century from an intellectual organization to a reality that must be lived — to a kind of pure and vital energy.” That vitality vibrates throughout this piece.

Shown in the final images with a pair of Tom Dixon floor lamps in gold leaf, also available at Vivamus Gallery.

Italy, c. 1962.

  • Origin: Italy
  • Period: c. 1962
  • Dimensions: 80" L x 27" D x 31.5" H
  • Materials: Lacquered wood, upholstery
  • Condition: Very good; wear consistent with age and use. Cushions have been reupholstered.