Gino Sarfatti – Pioneer of Modern Lighting Design

Gino Sarfatti (1912 – 1985) was a central figure and pioneer in the world of modern lighting design. His innovative and minimalist designs made him one of the most influential lighting designers of the 20th century.

Gino Sarfatti was born in Venice on September 16, 1912, and moved to Genoa in 1930 to study aeronautical engineering. However, due to financial difficulties, he had to abandon these studies. Together with his family, he moved to Milan, where he worked as a glassware salesman. A friend eventually commissioned him to make a lamp out of a vase. This awakened his passion for design and aesthetics.

In 1939, together with a group of architects, he founded his own company, Arteluce, which specialized in the production of lamps. During World War II, he fled to Switzerland but returned to Milan in 1945.1 During this time, he left Arteluce in the hands of an authorized signatory so that the business could continue.2

Gino Sarfetti, Model Model 1063, Image via Astep
Designed in 1954, Model 1063 was a true example of avant-garde design in its time. Gino Sarfatti aimed to present the aesthetic value of a visible fluorescent tube as a light source. © Image via Astep under Fair Use
Model 2065 by Gino Sarfetti
The 2065 model is a timeless classic, which is based on Gino Sarfatti’s passion for experimenting with different materials. Between 1949 and 1950, Sarfatti discovered methacrylate patterns that convinced him of the advantages of this plastic over glass, namely its greater lightness and resistance, and inspired him to design a hanging lamp from it. © Image via Astep under Fair Use

Through his talent as a designer and his entrepreneurial vision, he made Arteluce a leading brand in the world of lighting and established himself as an important figure on the Italian design scene. He created hundreds of lamps that were characterized by their simple elegance and functional aspects.

His works always focused on the interaction of light and space. Gino Sarfatti always developed his designs in close collaboration with the craftsmen in his workshop. As a self-taught designer, he did not make any sketches or technical drawings.2

Obviously, this approach affected the final result; Sarfatti was an extremely experimental designer who created correspondingly innovative products. He used different materials such as glass, brass, and steel, which was very unusual at that time. In 1951 for example, he used Plexiglas for the first time in the lighting industry. This wealth of innovation paid off – He won several important prizes and awards with his company, including the prestigious Compasso d’Oro design prize in 1954 and 1955.

In 1973 Sarfatti retired and sold Arteluce to Flos. In 1985, Gino Sarfatti passed away. His work and influence on modern lighting design are undeniable to this day. His pioneering work combined design and lighting. Today, his grandson continues this legacy with the brand Astep.

Gino Sarfetti, Model 2133, 1972
Model 2133 from 1972 is one of the last creations of Gino Sarfatti. The design is composed of two elements: a black lacquered, fork-shaped holder together with a socket for the bulb and a reflective, white lacquered aluminum disc. © Image via MMD under Fair Use
Model 607 by Gino Sarfetti
Model 607 Table Lamp. Cracked aluminum and polished aluminum © Image via Astep under Fair Use
Model 537, Design by Gino Sarfatti
Model 537 is characterized by its skillful simplicity, which harmoniously combines noble materials with a refined and playful design. © Image via Astep under Fair Use

Further Reading / Resources


Aesence is an independent art and design publication dedicated to minimalist aesthetics. Founded out of a deep appreciation and fascination, Aesence aims to promote awareness and appreciation of minimalism in art and design.