Carlo Mollino

Carlo Mollino: the dandy polimath

The Italian Carlo Mollino was one of the most eclectic Mid-Century modern characters. He was a designer, architect, and photographer with a passion for erotic Polaroids, car racing, and the occult. Inspired by organic and anthropomorphic forms, his Cavour desk and Arabesco table are best examples of his sensual design.


Carlo Mollino was an Italian designer, architect, and photographer. Carlo was born born on  6 May 1905 in Turin in the region of Piedmont. His father – Eugenio Mollino – was an engineer. As Carlo grew up, he was interested in different topics. The myth of the occult amused him. He believed that everything fantastic was allowed. He started his career as an architect in 1930 working as in his father’s office for 15 years since 1933.  His character was flamboyant and eccentric and like other mid-century modern designers he was also a showman and a dandy. Given his passion for skiing, in the late 1940s, Mollino designed La Casa Del Sole: an apartment tower in Cervinia in the Italian Dolomites. He also created the marketing posters, ski racks, door handles, bathrooms, and fireplaces of the building. But since Mollino was also a pilot and a racing-car driver, he conceived a car for Le Mans in 1955,  the Bisiluro (or double missile) with a distinctive aerodynamic design and a shape of a red rocket. Mollino died in 1973 while still at work.
Nardi, Automobile da corsa – Museo scienza tecnologia Milano 06795 foto, CC BY-SA 4.0


Design enthusiasts were fascinated by Mollino’s unique designs. His designs reflected his private life and could come up with seductive and dreamy art. Symbols engulfed his designs with female forms including occult and witchcraft talisman. At his time, his romantic style of art made him a unique artist in Italy. His talent grew as he participated in several competition and projects where he was awarded numerous times for his designs. The building arts he designed illustrated creativity using circular spaces and sloping forms. The focus of his art was based more on seductive looks that could attract clients from different localities. Mollino was obsessed with beliefs and mummification process of the ancient Egyptians likely inspired by the Egyptian museum of his home town Turin, which hosts one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in the world. Organic and biomorphic influences are often recurring in its work. Shapes seemed also inspired by the Futurism: the artistic movement which became in-vougue in Italy at the time of the Fascism. Most of his furniture was conceived to be use in buildings and interiors of his own design, such as the indulgent red so the production was mainly hand-made and in limited production and therefore, very sought-after as of today. Small lots of pieces were more recently put into production by the Italian manufacturer Zanotta.



THE CAVOUR DESK  had organic inspirations and anthropomorphous lines that showed the highest level of harmony Mollino wanted to portray. The art had unique materials such as molded plywood.

Carlo mollino: Cavour desk
Sailko, Carlo mollino, scrivania cavour, progetto del 1949, prodotto nel 2003, CC BY 3.0

THE ARABESCO TABLE was designed in 1949 had an unusual shape. The design had a stiff twist and turn with traditional surface made of plywood. The legs, engulfed by brass tips, secured it from the ground. The table had fluid lines that prevented cracking of the wood. Again, organic shapes dominate its design.

Carlo Mollino Arabesco table
Sailko, Carlo mollino, tavolo, 1949 ca., CC BY 3.0


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