Mariano Fortuny – Venetian Artisan

Whilst exploring Venice over summer, I visited the ‘Fortuny’s palazzo,’ a nineteenth century building that once belonged to Mariano Fortuny. The museum is covered from floor to ceiling with marvelous objects. As you walk around, you can imagine what life was like at the time. With a grand piano, theater-sets, costumes and textiles displayed, creating a rather intimate surroundings.

Mariano Fortunty was a pioneer in applied arts, famous for his eccentric taste and eclectic mix of ancient artifacts, textiles and theatrical art. He was curious about the old but with his feet firmly planted in the modern, researching into the past to discover new technical possibilities.

Winning a gold medal in 1896 at the Munich Exposition for his painting ‘Fanciulle Fiore’ was the moment when the world took notice to his art. The paining was based on an opera by Wagner, “I dreamed of nothing but Wagner. For some time, electricity ceased to occupy all of my thoughts. I was totally focused on stage sets and decorations” – Fortuny. The Fanciulle Fiore painting had a neo-renaissance style that captured the mood of the opera whilst representing the Nazarene movement, with soft romantic texture, ghost silhouettes and spiritual symbolism.

Throughout his life he immersed himself in musicals, stage lighting and theatrical design. It was like he wanted to belong to the art, not just look at it. Although the term applied arts was not cultural worthy at the time, he soon became a name amongst the aristocrats. Mastering and creating an “indirect lighting system” for the stage in 1900. This was revolutionary at the time and lend to him designing the first cyclorama dome shaped theatre.

After experimenting with fabric and printing, he created an embossing and printing technique onto antique fabric, often using velvet and silk as a base to print a brocade pattern. In 1910 he patents a fabric dying and printing system in Paris, leading the textile revolution.

In 1911 he exhibition his printed work at the Louvre, where he gained recognition, leading to commissions. The Fortuny name was being spread across Europe and in1913 Eleonora Duse gave a Fortuny scarf as a girft to Yvette Guilbert, muse of the Parisian music scene. Fortuny had become, not only a famous person but, even more important, he was a bona find trademark, a name that signified a certain style.