13 ottobre 2022
by Laura Antonini

The Shape of Light

Cobra Lamp
Cobra Lamp

Incredible patterns inspired by nature. A Cobra, a Bubble, Swallows, a Leaf are just some of the images Elio Martinelli transforms into figures of light. The time is after the war. Elio has a stage designer diploma from the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence.

Born in November 1922 and died in 2004, this Italian artist and designer marked the history of Italy’s international brand recognition in the furniture sector. He founded Martinelli Luce in the city of Lucca, a fine example of Italian excellence and good taste in the lighting sector that seduced the country and the whole western world starting with the economic boom of the Sixties. His lamps were the result of a great ability to observe reality; his privileged source of inspiration was animals and plants that knew how to adapt to the environment and survive. The shadows cast on the ground by clouds moving above became the suspension chandeliers Wandering Clouds, an air bubble became a white methacrylate (his favorite material) ceiling lamp called Bubble

This Homo Faber of design passed on to his daughter Emiliana, who has been with Martinelli Luce since the eighties and is now the president, his great passion and creativity for light, and the understanding of its sentimental and emotional value in helping to make homes livable, in addition to its functional aspect. Martinelli's knowledge of innovative and revolutionary plastic materials led to the creation of his most iconic lamps, and eventually to collaboration with the greatest Italian designers.

Celebrities such as Giò Ponti, Gae Aulenti, Sergio Asti, and Giuliana Gramigna helped his brand achieve international recognition

Celebrities such as Giò Ponti, Gae Aulenti, Sergio Asti, and Giuliana Gramigna helped his brand achieve international recognition. Each of these artists interpreted light in a unique way and designed timeless, functional lamps for Martinelli Luce, always in balance with the distinctive canons of the brand, many of them receiving important international awards such as Shanghai, Fluida, Toy, Lunaop, Colibrì, Hush, Calabrone and including the Compasso d'Oro with Elica. Some of these products have contributed to the history of lighting and are shown at contemporary art or design history museums such as the MoMA in New York City and the Triennale in Milan.

For the 100th anniversary of Elio's birth, celebrated this year, the company pays him homage with one of his most iconic creations; the 1968 Cobra table lamp in resin with rotating arm immediately calls to mind the shape of the snake. The Cobra lamp is enclosed in a sphere, two horizontal planes dividing the light source from the base. The rotational movement of the reflector around the central joint always creates new spheres. A dynamic and sinuous shape like that of a cobra swaying to the sound of a flute but ready to snap.

Printed in a single material, thermosetting resin, it comes in brilliant white, black or red. Back in 2018, Emiliana had a book published by Electa for the 50th anniversary of the lamp’s creation, Elio Martinelli e Martinelli Luce, with images never published before, project sketches and many photographs recounting her father’s story and inspiration. “For my mother Anna's birthday, my father Elio came home driving a yellow bug; it was a gift for her, who loved that color. One hundred years after his birth, I wanted to remember him with a special edition of one of the lamps he designed, the Cobra, because it embodies his design philosophy with purity of forms, geometry, innovation, experimentation of materials, and construction techniques," architect and designer Emiliana Martinelli says.


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