|Carlo Bugatti, Curule Armchair, 1890-1896. Wood, painted parchment, copper. Source|
|Victorian overkill: Queen Victoria's Railway Carriage.|
The era’s designer reformers championed various more aesthetically pleasing alternatives, ranging from the Medievalism of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Japanese-inspired designs of the Aesthetic Movement, and the stylized natural motifs of Art Nouveau.
|Carlo Bugatti, Desk, ca. 1902. Walnut, copper, pewter, vellum. Source|
Italian designer Carlo Bugatti (1856-1940) was associated with the Italian variant of Art Nouveau, but his approach was so original as to be uncategorizable. The son of an architecture/designer, Bugatti studied in Milan and Paris, and in 1880 opened his own furniture manufacturing concern, C. Bugatti & C., Fabbrica Mobili Artistici Fantasia in Milan.
|Carlo Bugatti, detail of ornamentation.|
|Carlo Bugatti, Cobra Chair, 1902. Parchment-covered wood with paint, pencil, copper. Source|
While you can’t mistake a piece of Bugatti furniture for anything else, you are forgiven for wondering what exactly you are looking at, as his idiosyncratic vocabulary of forms was configured into some truly eccentric pieces. Sit backwards in the Cobra Chair and you might feel like you’re at the helm of a retro-future space ship.
|Carlo Bugatti, Snail Living Room, 1902. Source|
The Cobra Chair was part of Bugatti’s Snail Living Room, created for the Turin International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art of 1902. In keeping with Art Nouveau designers’ penchant for insect motifs, Bugatti based the wall treatment of this dreamy space on the snail’s spiralling shell. Yet the circular motifs also look forward to Art Deco, still more than two decades away. Now that’s visionary!