Ashoka Table Lamp – Less is a Bore

Ashoka Table Lamp
Ashoka Table Lamp

For the introductory 1981 MEMPHIS set, the Ashoka table lamp is an early Ettore Sottsass lighting masterwork as iconoclastic a light/sculpture as you can find anywhere!! Ettore Sottsassโ€™ โ€œAshokaโ€ lamp is of painted metal. The little round bulbs at the ends of the lampโ€™s various tendrils seem almost vulnerable as if they would recoil when touched. โ€œโ€˜Ashokaโ€โ€™ is one of Memphisโ€™ most expensive lamps. (Horn, 1985)

It heralds its namesake, “Ashoka the Great”, an Indian emperor of the Maurya dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from around 268-232 BC, with numerous light sources protruding everywhere from side to side, almost Buddha-like in its ephemeral scope.

โ€œWhen I was young, all we ever heard about was functionalism, functionalism, functionalism. Itโ€™s not enough. Design should also be sensual and exciting.โ€

Ettore Sottsass

Love of India

Ettore’s love of India began in the middle of his life when he tried to cure himself of a terminal bacterial disease living there under the Hindi Shaman’s watchful eye. He eventually recovered his full vigour, living a very long life.
The “infinite” lighting possibilities reflect his support of Buddhist principles in which the essence of life is “illuminated.”


Horn. (1985). Memphisโ€ฏ: objects, furniture, and patterns. Internet Archive. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from

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