Gino Sarfatti was born in Venice on September 16th, 1912.
The Sarfatti family became established in Venice as early as the fourtheenth century (the Sarfatti name is derived from “Zarfatti” the denomination used for French Jewish). Childhood for Gino Sarfatti was definitely marked by economic well-being and the cosmopolitan atmosphere that characterized Venice in the early twenthieth century. After classical studies, in 1930, Gino Sarfatti moved to Genoa to enrol in the faculty of Aeronautical Engineering, as an extremely brilliant student. However, due to the snowballing political situation, at 23 years of age, young Sarfatti was forced to interrupt his studies and seek work. A positive outcome to this reversal of fortune occurred when a family friend, owner of a business in Murano that produced blown glass for lamps, introduced him to the theme of lighting. Soon, he decided to move to Milan where, not long after, with Aldo Valcarenghi and Dino Mondolfi, Sarfatti founded his first lighting company, Lumen, which grew rapidly becoming one of the most important firms in the sector. In 1938 Sarfatti left Lumen to found his own small lighting workshop, Arte Luce (the two words were originally sometimes separated). Arteluce, with great foresight, opened a first store on the very central Corso Littorio, today Corso Matteotti, at no. 12, in Palazzo Ferrania, close to Scaglia and Casa&Giardino, the stores that in the immediate pre-war sell products suited to the times. Arteluce advertising appeared in “Domus” and “Stile” the new magazines founded by Gio Ponti in 1941, and partecipates at the 7th Triennial in Milan in 1940. Due to the racial persecutions, Sarfatti was forced to move with his family to Switzerland, and Arteluce production was temporarly moved to Albavilla. Immediately after Liberation, Sarfatti came back to Milan and in 1950 took a long and fundamental trip to the U.S.. During his absence, he entrusted the artistic direction of Arteluce to his friend Vittoriano Viganò, who was to mark that period and the future of the firm with his own style. Products of that period were the ceiling lights with large articulated arms, with cones of various functions, like light mobiles. In 1953, it was time to renovate the store in Via Matteotti, and Sarfatti assigned the renovation project to Zanuso.
In 1950 some important pieces by Arteluce were included in the exhibition “MUSA: Italy at Work – Her Renaissance in Design Today” in Chicago. In 1952 eleven Arteluce pieces were included in the “Exhibition of Italian Decorative Arts” in Paris curated by Franco Albini. In 1954 lapm model 559 won the Compasso d’Oro Prize and in the same year, at the X Triennial, models 1063 and 1065 won the “Gran Premio”. From then on, Sarfatti constantly partecipated in the Triennial until 1973, when he receive another Gold Medal. The year 1962 was a milestone year for Sarfatti and Arteluce. The historic store on Via Matteotti closed its door and moved to a new larger space in Via della Spiga: a revolutionary project by Vittoriano Viganò. The orders increased rapidly, particularly the “custom designed” projects and the ship fitttings, as for instance the ones for the cruise ships Michelangelo and Raffaello and the great “cloud” chandelier for the Teatro Regio by Carlo Mollino in Turin.
Sarfatti was not someone who delegated easily and he continue to rely on a few trusted and tested collaborators including architects Maria Luisa Vignelli, Annamaria Costanza Fattori, Jole Sarfatti, the sons Roberto and Riccardo, and Riccardos’ wife Sandra Severi. In 1973, the year that marked the greatest profit in Arteluce’s history, Sarfatti made an unpredictable decision: on December 24th he sold his entire holding to the Flos group. From this moment on, his relations with the world of design were cut off very sharply, even though, in the meantime, a “historic” interest in the story of Arteluce began to emerge. In 1974 he retired to live in his house on Lake Como, in Griante. Gino Sarfatti died on March 6th 1985, in Gravedona.

Excerpt from M. Romanelli, S. Severi, “Gino Sarfatti Opere scelte 1938-1973”, Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo (Milano) 2012
Photo Courtesy Archivio Storico Flos