Stilnovo: lighting the way in the atomic age
NEW YORK – Stilnovo, an innovative design company based in Milan, Italy, has created fine, functional lighting since 1947. Inspired by the historic Stilnovo, “new style,” Italian poetic movement associated with Dante Alighieri (c.1265–1321), its creations merge ingenuity with grace. Each elegant piece, produced with specialized technology, high-quality materials and extraordinary attention to detail, epitomizes the traditional Italian aesthetic. Each is a work of art.
Stilnovo ornamental chandeliers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Through the 1960s, many, reflecting developments of the emerging atomic age, featured optimistic, out-of-this-world Sputnik-inspired designs. Many are stark constellations, featuring multiple, angular pinpoints of light radiating from tiny sunlike spheres. Some, their arms widely arched, look like daddy-longlegs spiders. Others, larger and lusher, feature ovoid “tulip” bulbs on gently curved arms. Particularly dramatic ones feature handfuls of brass tubes or numerous glass orbs mounted on round, geometric or freeform branched frames.
“Whatever their style,” explains Rico Baca, vice president of Palm Beach Modern Auctions, “clean lines and functional designs make Stilnovo’s chandeliers easy to place throughout the home, in hallways, living rooms or dining rooms. Since multi-arm chandeliers in brass, glass and enameled metal are particularly popular with designers and high-end collectors,” he adds, “these vibrant, vintage pieces always garner attention and top prices at auction.”
Stilnovo’s simple, circular ceiling pendant lights, produced in a rainbow of colors, are perennially popular. So are their stunning, variously shaped, old-new wall sconces – lighting fixtures that once held candles or oil lamps.
The company’s superbly designed floor lamps are not only enduring favorites, but also endearing conversation-pieces. To some, for example, the enamel, chromed Spider Task lamp resembles its name – an eight-legged anthropoid gracefully sweeping through the air. To others, however, it evokes a spare, splendid, hovering water bird.
Danilo and Corrado Aroldi’s unique white, black, yellow, or silver Periscopio (Periscope) Floor Lamp (1967), on the other hand, faithfully replicates its namesake. Its thick, vertical, lacquered aluminum tube body is topped by a flexible, black rubber joint that focuses its spotlight-eye both vertically and horizontally.
Scores of other Stilnovo floor lamps feature amusing, candy-colored, adjustable glass cones emerging from single, spindly stems. Others feature tiny, playful, bright “balloons” emerging from extending multiple stems. And some Stilnovos, amusingly angling out at both ends, resemble casual clutches of pick-up sticks.
Stilnovo table lamps are no less innovative. Unlike earlier pieces, however, many can be attributed to specific designers. The Topo Table Lamp (1970) by Joe Colombo, for example, features double-jointed, adjustable, angled arms in a number of variations. Some, worked in shiny metal from tip to toe, are versatile clamp-ons. Others, lacquered in bright, primary shades, are securely anchored to thick, winding chrome or matte-black circular bases.
Some Stilnovo table lamps are more intriguing yet. The rare, white plastic, cowl shaped Lucetta (1974) by Cini Boeri, through a simple change of position, offers two different lighting effects. The Valigia Lamp (1977), designed by architect Ettore Sottsass, features a bold, curved sheet metal body above four sturdy, surprisingly high, enameled steel tube legs. In addition to its telltale size, handle and overall rectangular shape, the name of this iconic work reveals its ironic inspiration. Valigia translates to English as suitcase.
Stilnovo lighting – delicate or dramatic, simple or sophisticated – preserves its timeless charm from one generation to the next. As Baca explains, “Stilnovo epitomizes some of the best qualities of Italian lighting design: innovative high-style that is also firmly grounded in functionality. Moreover, Stilnovo has evolved with current design trends, retaining their signature style although the materials and forms have changed over the decades.”