Versatile designer Lella Vignelli, who died on December 22nd, played a vital role in firmly establishing the clean lines and clarity of Modernism in twentieth century American design. Her designs were pertinent throughout the late twentieth century and remain so today.
Vignelli was born into a family of architects in Udine, Italy in 1934. She married designer Massimo Vignelli in 1957 and together they founded their design practice, the Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture, a firm that achieved international renown. In 1971 the Vignelli’s moved their business to New York City and their reputation grew. Lella Vignelli became known for her interior designs, creating everything from furniture to tableware, and for her silverwork.
In 1979 the Vignellis created the branding for the Ciga super-luxury hotel chain in Italy. In this, they were responsible for creating a new “look” for everything from graphics to tableware. This Ciga flatware set displays the modernism for which the Vignellis were famous. The design focuses on the shapes comprising each piece: the handles, the tines, the bowls and the blades. The visual impact is created by blunting the ends and raising the outer edges so that they encircle the handles. A key element here is that traditional ornamentation has been eliminated. By convention, tableware services were often known for their highly decorated handles, with less attention given to the functional ends. For this fork and coordinating pieces, the Vignellis re-worked both aspects which resulted in a fresh, modern, original look to represent the Ciga brand.
The set, of medium silverplate, was a gift from the Vignellis to Cooper Hewitt in 1985, six years after its debut. The range was designed by Lella and Massimo Vignelli and design team member David Law, and manufactured by Calegaro Argenteria.
Susan Teichman is a decorative arts historian specializing in Moorish Revival synagogue architecture and jewelry design.