As the story of the iconic Nesso Lamp goes, in 1967, Italian designer Giancarlo Mattioli designed the lamp for Artemide, drawing inspiration from “l'ombelico di una bella donna", the Italian description for the sensuous shape of beautiful Italian woman's belly button. Like many of the other iconic Italian designs that have stood the test of time (think Vespa scooters, Smeg refridgerators, and or the Alfonso Bialetti Moka Pot), the Nesso Lamp has continuously been produced by Artemide for the last 40 years.
With the rise of furniture trends that centre on reclaiming bygone design eras like Mid-Century Modern (an umbrella term the internet has coined for any wooden furniture merged with neutral tones from the 20th century) and iconic Scandinavian lighting, it’s not surprising that Italian modular design was next on the list. Today, Gen-Z and Millennial homes across Instagram and TikTok are an eclectic mix of curated corners and house plants. But, what makes the Nesso Lamp special is it becomes the centre of attention and the embodiment of luxurious Italian design, admiration, and iconography.
During the day, the orange Nesso Lamp feels like a playful mushroom-like sculpture, but when illuminated in the evening feels like an object from a mysterious and distant world. The lamp’s warmth exudes a feeling that makes us feel good about ourselves by making us believe that life can sparkle and glow. It is both accessory and centre piece. At the same time, the Lesso Lamp manages to provide both direct and diffused lighting, striking the right balance between functional and mood lighting. Somehow, it gives form to desire and substance to a trendy object.
What’s clear is the Nesso Lamp has supplanted itself firmly in the retro-eclectic paradise of colourful, youthful homes. But, if you want to buy an original Nesso Lamp from Artemide, it will set you back around R4000. As a result, DIY creators have found ways to recreate the lamp on a budget and other brands have started selling ‘dupes’ (cheaper duplicate products) of the lamp under names like a “mushroom lamp” or “puffball lamp”.
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Not only has the Nesso Lamp (and its equivalents) found a home in the living rooms and bedrooms of many youthful homes, but it is featured throughout many museums and design institutions across the world. In the US alone, the Lesso Lamp is featured in the Twentieth Century Design Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Design Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York and the permanent exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, in Denver, Colarado. It is also represented in Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, a permanent exhibit at Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Montréal, in Canada, and Museo Permanente del Design Italiano in Milan, Italy.