Image Source: Missoni
I will never forget the excitement I felt as a boy on a summer morning by the lake, when for the first time, my pen started to trace the outline of a leg, then the body, then a face. I was amazed, ecstatic and appreciative of this miracle, and I am still always amazed that the blossoming of this image that I have inside of me happens again and emerges on the paper all by itself…
– Piero Fornasetti
Even if you’ve not heard his name, we can almost guarantee that you have unknowingly seen his designs in one form or another. From plates to silk scarves to sculptures to decorative friezes, Fornasetti was a delightful (if not slightly mad) rarity among mankind: a Renaissance artist who simply could not stop creating.
Over his lifetime (10 November 1913 – 9 October 1988) he created over 11,000 pieces. More than 500 of these pieces included the face of Lina Cavalieri – a famous opera singer – but in no two pieces is her face the same. True to his fascinating character, when questioned about his repeated reincarnations of Lina’s face, he once said that he wasn’t sure why he kept using her and admitted: “I began to make them and I never stopped.” This is in-keeping with the opening quote: it seems that for Fornasetti creating was a compulsion, something that was ingrained in his being.
Our interest was first piqued when we came across this set of amazing gold Fornasetti dinner plates from the ever wonderful The Vintage Trader. This set is from the Grandi Maestri series (‘Great Masters’) and they are marked with a ‘P’ for Piero on the back. They are decandent, fun and just the right amount of ‘bling’!
Fornasetti is also infamous for his heavy use of black and white, hands, owls, the sun, and the theme of time. His work often has a cheeky side to it – for example Lina may be sticking out her tongue or wearing a moustache – and this rebellious streak was clear from a young age, when in 1932 Fornasetti was asked to leave the Brera Art Academy due to his defiant attitude.
Image Source: Howard Grey
Interestingly, his son Barnaba also attended Brera Art Academy, and is remarkably like his father in that he compulsively and continually creates. In his own right he is a talented artist, and he diligently works under the family name to build on the legacy of his father. One particular project we love is his collaboration with Cole & Son to create gorgeous, timeless wallpaper where ‘elements from the Fornasetti archives [are] used to make stunning large scale designs in a palette of useable colours ranging from reds and golds, to neutrals and blacks.’
Image Source: Decoist
Fornasetti has become a name that is synonymous with Italian design. Since his passing Barnaba has continued to delve into the archives of his father’s work and has produced some stunning pieces. Famous fans include Rita Ora and Calvin Harris who were spotted in the Milan Fornasetti shop last year, and if you’re looking to begin your very own Fornasetti collection you can head to Selfridges or Liberty. Long may the Fornasetti legacy continue!
Post by Lucy Victoria Jackson, our wonderful contributing writer. You can read more about her work here.
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