In 1881, Luigi Fontana starts his business in Milan, manufacturing float glass for the construction industry. As the century draws to a close, the company is producing refined bespoke and one-off glass furnishing accessories.
In 1931 the architect, designer and founding editor of Domus magazine, Gio Ponti is invited to take over the company’s art direction. Several of the pieces he designs for FontanaArte are still in production, including the 0024 Suspension, Bilia, Pirellina, and Pirellone lamps, and the Tavolino 1932 coffee table.
In the mid-thirties, Gio Ponti decides it’s time to give a boost to Luigi Fontana’s line of prestigious furnishing accessories and invites Pietro Chiesa to join him in the art direction.
Chiesa is a distinguished master glazier who enlists the craftsmen from his own workshop to join him.
It is a short leap to the launch of FontanaArte, a new division with a mission to develop products with a more artisanal feel, ranging from stained glass to limited series of furnishing and lighting accessories.
As the years roll by, Pietro Chiesa plays a key role in the company as his creative verve offers ample proof that he is a versatile master of vast cultural and technical expertise. He designs over a thousand different pieces, some of which make design history and which remain in production today, including the 1932 curved-glass Fontana table, the Cartoccio vase (1932), and the Luminator floor lamp (1933).
In the mid-Fifties French master glazier and decorator Max Ingrand, renowned for his stunning stained-glass church windows, is invited to the art direction team. He takes the company towards more intensely industrial production but always keeping the craftsmen in his sights.
In the seventies, Architect Gae Aulenti, who had already worked with the company in the past, becomes another leading light in the corporate renewal process.
Her first move was to makeover the collection, personally designing lamps and furnishing accessories that are still in the catalogue. At the same time she recruited a team of young contributors, validating the corporate mission to scout talent and acknowledging the importance of various strategic communication levers.
FontanaArte’s legendary success is forever linked to Ponti, Chiesa, Ingrand and Aulenti, but also to its reliance on prestigious partnerships, initiating in winning alliances with internationally renowned architects or emerging young talents who all have contributed to what is a phantasmagorical collection in many ways: lighting with personality inspired by established styling.