Masterpieces from Italian collections

31 OCTOBER 2018
Auction, 0272

Osvaldo Borsani

60.000 / 90.000
Price realized  Registration

Osvaldo Borsani

(Varedo 1911 – Milan 1985)

Lucio Fontana

(Rosario de Santa Fè 1899 – Varese 1968)


Manufactured by Arredamenti Borsani Varedo

top in black slate with sculptural support element in sculpted, lacquered and gilded wood

92 x 250 x 49 cm

Project no. 7234/2 of 1950 for Arredamenti Borsani Varedo

Certificate of authenticity from the Archivio Osvaldo Borsani, no. 47/2018, dated 25 July 2018

An export licence is available for this lot.


Rome, private collection



I. De Gutry - M.P. Maino, Il mobile italiano degli anni 40 e 50, Roma 2010, p. 112, n. 14;

G. Bosoni, Tecno. L’eleganza discreta della tecnica, Milano 2011, p. 24;

G. Bosoni, Osvaldo Borsani. Architetto, designer, imprenditore, Milano 2018, pp. 360-361, p. 566 n. 1950.7234


Comparative literature

G Gramigna - F. Irace, Osvaldo Borsani, Roma 1992, pp. 194-195;

N. Foster, T. Fantoni (ed.), Osvaldo Borsani, exh. cat. Triennale di Milano (16 May – 16 September 2018), Milano 2018, p. 75 n. 093, p. 94


Osvaldo Borsani, born in Varedo in 1911, was the son of Gaetano, a furniture builder at the famed Atelier di Varedo. He took his diploma in fine arts at the Accademia di Belle Arti before going on to the Politecnico di Milano, where he earned his degree in architecture in 1937. A precocious talent, while he was still a student he presented his ‘Casa Minima’, a rationalist project applied to everyday living space. At the V Milan Triennale; in 1941 he designed Villa Pesenti in Forte dei Marmi; Villa Borsani of Varedo, on which project he invited such young artists as Adriano Spilimbergo, Fausto Melotti and Lucio Fontana to collaborate, dates instead to 1943. His work with these artists developed into dozens of projects commissioned by Milan’s bourgeoisie; in particular, he worked intensively with Lucio Fontana, a friend since his Accademia days. One still extant sign of this association is the 1956 metal balustrade of the facade of Via Monte Napoleone 27, the building designed by Borsani as family residence and headquarters of the Tecno company.

Borsani’s earliest work was at the Atelier di Varedo – renamed Arredamenti Borsani Varedo (ABV) in the 1920s – whose products were prevalently ‘furniture in neo-Renaissance style’ typical of the Brianza tradition, even though the works presented by the Atelier at the 1925 and 1927 editions of the Monza Biennale began to feature more essential, more geometric lines. Borsani made his official debut in the early Thirties at the IV Monza Triennale; when he showed at the V Milan Triennale for the first time in 1933, the 21-year-old student already demonstrated a stylistic maturity and an orientation toward the rationalist codes. In those years, the Atelier received important orders which were filled by a new manufactory and presented at the shop/design studio opened in 1932 in Milan’s Via Monte Napoleone 6. Throughout the Thirties and Forties, Borsani was occupied principally with design of interiors for prestigious homes; during these years, he initiated and consolidated collaborative relationships with such artists as Agenore Fabbri, Lucio Fontana, Aligi Sassu, Roberto Crippa, Fausto Melotti and Arnaldo Pomodoro. Borsani requested the artists to contribute to design of ceilings, handles, shelving, doorframes, fireplaces and numerous other furnishing elements. His success, both artistic and commercial, was resounding; production continued even during the war years, after which Borsani channelled his energies into his project for passing from traditional artisan to industrial production. 

Artist Lucio Fontana was an indispensable ‘co-star’ of this important redefinition of interiors. His unique and original, fluctuating Spatialist sign, with its Baroque overtones, permeates and shapes the ceilings, the walls and at times even the furniture of the homes decorated under Osvaldo Borsanì’s skilful direction.

The early post-war years were very fertile and rewarding for the Varedo atelier as its occasions to design for important private and public clients increased. Its collaborative efforts with the interesting circle of artists mentioned above also intensified and became a hallmark that set its work apart. Beginning with the Gulinello home in Milan (1947-1950), a large part of the original furnishings of which Pandolfini Casa d’Aste rediscovered and put up for sale between 2014 and 2015, the atelier’s work is clearly marked by this collaboration; it is also readily apparent just how the artists’ contributions, in this case Lucio Fontana’s, are integrated with the furnishings produced by the atelier. It was not a simple question of making use of designs and sculptures; the art was an intrinsic part of the furnishing elements, and vice-versa; examples include bar cabinets, coffee tables, wall-mounted consoles. 


Osvaldo Borsani and Lucio Fontana

Lucio Fontana was frequently there. Osvaldo often asked him to execute works, especially for sculptural decoration in ceramic: chimney-pieces, ceilings, doorways… At that time in Milan artists and architects in the excellent company of poets such as Leonardo Sinisgalli, philosophers such as Enzo Paci, critics and art historians such as Gillo Dorfles and Guido Ballo. And Osvaldo continued to play a key role in this culturally vital milieu. In this period, Fontana was the great artist who inspired a whole generation of younger painters and sculptors, some of whom were seeking work. The generosity of Osvaldo Borsani was shared by Fontana. Ideas were born of this common sentiment, ways in which the artist could intervene at the design stage. For this reason, Fontana was not merely someone who sometimes worked for the firm; for Osvaldo he was a friend whose professional services he could call on for more personal ends. Thus was born the idea of getting him to execute sculptural portraits of the closest members of his family, such as his Fontana’s exceptional capacity to model materials transformed a person’s physiognomy into an unforgettable work of art. Fontana often dropped into the shop in Via Montenapoleone, chatted to the architect, arranged to meet other artists and joked with Osvaldo’s daughters, Donatella and Valeria. At that time he was the most avant-garde artist in Milan, and he was especially generous especially with regard to young talent: often a word was enough, but frequently his generosity went much further. Osvaldo Borsani and Lucio Fontana were two outstanding figures in Milan in the sixties. Exhibitions of artists, both Italian and foreign, were often held at the shop. The relationship between art and industry had become a normal state of affairs. Fontana designed supports and ornamentation for tables and balconies; he made objects and decorative elements in ceramic; Fausto Melotti created ornamentation for bathrooms; Adriano di Spilimbergo designed panels for doors and tiles; Arnaldo Pomodoro, decoration and headboards for beds.

It was practically a Renaissance workshop...


A. Colonetti (ed.), Frammenti e ricordi di un percorso progettuale, Milano 1996, p. 43