Born in Naples in 1929, Italian architect-designer Cesare Lacca created modernist furniture and metalwork throughout the 1950s. Though details of his personal life and professional training remain lost to history, there are sufficient surviving primary sources that document his many elegant designs in brass—work for which he is best know and which fetch high prices from collectors.
Like many Italian designers in the 20th century, Lacca moved to Milan after World War II to launch his career. Before he was even 21 years old, his work was selected by a group of American curators for inclusion in the landmark exhibition Italy at Work: Her Renaissance in Design Today that toured 12 US museums between 1950 and 1953—the first major exhibition of Italian design outside of Italy. The exhibition showcased the best and brightest of Italian designers who had embraced modernist principles and rejuvenated traditional Italian crafts, like Carlo Mollino , Franco Albini, and Gio Ponti
In the exhibition catalogue, curator Meyric R. Roger’s spotlights Lacca's expert achievements in brass, noting “the variety and quality of his creations,” which “place him high among the architect-designers leading the current [Modernist] movement." Rogers adds, "The quality of his work...provide[s] all the decorative effectiveness needed without strain or exaggeration”.
Lacca designed a great many tea carts and serving trolleys in his career—which make up a large proportion of what is available on the vintage market today—as well as magazine racks and coffee tables. Lacca’s most iconic tea cart was manufactured by Italian brand Cassina and features sculpted beech, cedar, teak, or walnut with brass details, a glass tabletop, and a removable glass tray.
Lacca also designed high-backed lounge chairs, which were regularly featured in Arredoluce advertisements for Angelo Lelli’s lighting. Incidentally, Lacca’s lighting designs—at least one of which was on display at the 1950 Brooklyn Museum exhibition— are difficult to source and often sell well above estimated prices at art auctions.
Almost all of Lacca’s known designs were created in the 1950s, and unfortunately we do not know how his career developed from the 1960s. Today, Cesare Lacca is appreciated for his contribution to the Italian design identity; his ability to fashion brass into the Italian postwar design conversation; and his timeless, highly sought-after serving trolleys.