A design icon of the 1960s, Vico Magistretti’s Eclisse lamp is still incredibly relevant today. Its shape, as well as its history, make it a curious and bizarre object with numerous anecdotes and versions. Given its uniqueness, the lamp produced by Artemide becomes part of our “Talking Objects” – a format through which we are going to rediscover some objects from the past that, in one way or another, have marked an era, continuing to have an effect on the present as well. In the following lines, we will try to reconstruct part of the history of this object, listing the most interesting curiosities.
#1 A Metro ticket and Victor Hugo
This story begins in Milan, in Piazza Conciliazione. It was midnight and Ludovico Magistretti, known to everyone as Vico, was walking down the metro stairs while reflecting on the commission he had received from Artemide: ‘you have to make a night lamp‘. So, inspired by the ‘lantern’ that the protagonist of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables used to steal, he began sketching the lamp sketch on the back of the metro ticket. Magistretti was not new to this kind of design approach. There are no real design boards of the Milanese architect, but rather countless loose sheets on which he jotted down his ideas. From the photographs shown here, which belong to the Magistretti archive, one can see the attention that the master paid to the rotating, characterising and decisive element.
#2 A name, a shape
The name ‘Eclisse’ undoubtedly derives from its special shape, as well as its main feature. The table lamp has three hemispheres: one is the base, the other is fixed while the inner one is swivelling. In this way, the user can choose the gradation of light, incorporating the light source at will. The resulting semi-darkening effect is very similar to what happens during a lunar eclipse.
#3 Un evergreen
The Eclisse lamp is one of Artemide’s best sellers and a long seller. Still in production today, the design piece turns fifty-eight this year. During its long life, Eclisse became recognisable to everyone, appearing in a number of famous films, including Federico Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ (1960) and Dario Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’ (1975). But it was clear from the outset that it would have a glittering future. In fact, designed in 1965, only two years later it won the Compasso d’Oro award because, according to the Commission, it had ‘the dual qualities of high design and aesthetic value and possible mass distribution. It also emphasised the novelty of the technical solution which, through a simple rotating screen movement, graduates the intensity of the light output‘. Magistretti’s bedside lamp is now in many homes in Italy and elsewhere (given its affordable price – around 150 euros), and is part of some of the world’s most important permanent collections, such as those of the MoMa in New York and the Triennale Design Museum in Milan.