A life's dedication to art
Mariano and Henriette Fortuny
Mariano Fortuny, polyhedric artist of Spanish origins, met Henriette Nigrin (his future wife and muse) in Paris in 1902. At that time Marino was a known artist in the fields of painting and theatre lighting. Henriette was a beautiful young woman with a lively intelligence.
Printing on fabric
In 1910 Fortuny patented an innovative system for the multi-colour printing on fabric. The process provided for the use of matrices made of a thin silk fabric coated with a colloidal substance (gelatine) on which the pattern would be applied by means of an alkaline solution. The pattern could be done by hand, as for a painting, or via a photographic-type printing system.
Without any doubt the greatest success of the workshop was the creation of the Delphos, a monochrome gown of a simple, essential form, a sort of cylinder initially consisting of four pieces of fabric (which by 1919–20 had become five) made in satin or silk taffeta sewn along the long sides in a vertical sequence and continuing to form short sleeves.
The atelier's creations gave shape to the peculiar and modern figurative language of Fortuny, the result of a cultivated and refined re-elaboration of suggestions drawn from different eras and cultures: from the Greek-Minoic world to Coptic motifs and to the Middle East, from Hispano-Moorish art to the Italian Renaissance and the Far East
With this method derived from the Japanese katagami, developed in the thirteenth century during the Kamakura era, it was not technically possible to produce large surfaces; so the workshop, after various experiments, arrived at the use of screen printing, first on paper and then on emulsified cotton canvas.
Applied for the first time around 1915 in a printing machine
designed and built specifically for the purpose – a semi-mechanical rotary printer – the continuous band matrices made it possible to overcome considerable difficulties (such as the high cost of manual printing) while, conversely, increasing production quantities without changing the artistic effects.
In the workshop in Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, every process was carried out in line with a “craft” concept, understood as the constant control of every stage of production: from the mixing of colours to the preparation of glues, from the design of the decorative motif to the pattern on the printing block.
Palazzo Fortuny is now devoted to preserving the heritage and legacy of Mariano Fortuny. The building retains the rooms and structures created by the couple, together with tapestries and collections. Four floors can be visited, and the museum hosts exhibitions closely connected to the spirit of Fortuny and his eclectic research and experimental interests.
Museo Fortuny Venezia Palazzo Orfei