Bugatti, Carlo (1856-1940)

Carlo Bugatti, famous for his extraordinary and oriental furniture, was born on 16 February 1856 in Milan. His father, Giovanni Luigi Bugatti, produced monumental fireplaces for Milan mansions and also worked as an engineer and inventor. At the age of eighteen, Carlo Bugatti began studying architecture at the Milan Academy. A little later, he enrolled at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris. From the beginning he cultivated a very own artistic style, which also manifested in his clothing. He favored a kind of overall, over which he pulled a long frock coat, of which the stand-up collar was held together with cat's eye buttons on a gold chain.

Around 1870, the preference for oriental culture, architecture and ornaments became apparent in the European arts and crafts and furniture design. Especially Englishmen appreciated this 'glorious style' because it was 'rich and cheerful'. Carlo Bugatti drew inspiration for his furniture designs from the entire repertoire of the cultures of the Orient. His designs were based on works from India, Persia, China and Japan. In his Milan workshop at Via Castelfidardo 6, the first pieces of furniture were created, such as a complete bedroom piece, intended as a wedding present for his younger sister Luigia, who married the painter Giovanni Segantini in 1880. In the same year Carlo Bugatti married Thérèse Lorioli (1862-1935), with whom he had three children. The daughter Déanice and the sons Rembrandt and Ettore, who also became successful and famous as sculptors and car makers.

Typical for the style which Carlo Bugatti established is the combination of oriental motifs with unusual materials, with which he achieved a completely new kind of effect. His architectural, often asymmetrically designed furniture shows friezes, Morisco arches and delicate pillars. He achieved colored accents by inlaid work of different woods and metals such as punched copper plates. His furniture usually is composed of nut or fruit tree woods, stained black and thus look like ebony. As one of the first furniture designers, he used parchment, which he often painted with motifs from Japanese prints and paintings and East Asian and Arabic characters. Again and again he invented new variations of stylized plants and animals. Finally, fringe and pendants of white silk were indispensable features of his chairs and thrones.

The Bugatti furniture was exhibited for the first time in 1888 at the Milan trade fair for the art industry. In 1900, Bugatti designed Lord Battersea's bedroom at Surrey House on Marble Arch in London. At this time his furniture is dominated by generously flowing lines and bright parchment surface areas. After moving the workshop to Via Marcona 13, he also introduced his sons to the workshop.

The company was represented at many international exhibitions and was awarded prizes and medals. With the furniture which Bugatti exhibited at the exhibition in Turin in 1902, he found his own form and ornamental style, which can be considered as an alternative to van de Velde, Gallé, Gaudi, Macintosh, Eckmann and Peter Behrens. In 1904 Bugatti sold his workshop to the company De Vecchi with the license for continued building and moved to Paris. There he made friends with the gallery owner Adrien Hébrard, in whose gallery he exhibited his silver work in 1907. In 1910, Bugatti and his wife retired to Pierrefond. After the death of his daughter and his wife, in 1937 he moved to live with his son Ettore in Molsheim in Alsace, where he was building his famous automobiles. Carlo Bugatti finally died in 1940.

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