After the Workshop, the Museum
The working environment of Mariano Fortuny is represented through precious wall-hangings, paintings, and the famous lamps – all objects that testify to the artist’s inspiration and still give count of his eclectic work and of his presence on the intellectual and artistic scene at the turn of the 19th century.
Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo
Born in Granada in 1871, Mariano Fortuny was himself the son of an artist and quickly found a place within the art and social world of Paris, the city in which he completed his studies as a painter. At 18 he moved to Venice, where he attended international artistic circles and would soon have figures such as Gabriele D’Annunzio, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Marchesa Casati, Eleonora Duse and Prinz Fritz Hohenlohe-Waldenburg amongst his friends.
Meanwhile, he began to develop his idea for the ‘cupola’ – that is, a system of stage-lighting that would use indirect, diffuse illumination to free set design from the restrictions of traditional lighting. When he began to enjoy the patronage of the Comtesse de Bearn, Fortuny’s revolutionary set designs could be put into full effect: between 1903 and 1906 the countess’s private theatre was equipped with a fully updated ‘cupola’ system. As a result of the fame this brought, Fortuny’s system was then produced in Berlin by AEG and adopted by major theatres throughout Europe.
The 1930s would see Fortuny make other innovations – for example, “Tempera Fortuny”, coloured photographic paper – and work on the illumination of some of the great cycles of paintings to be seen in Venetian scuole (for example, Tintoretto’s work at the San Rocco and Capriccio’s at San Giorgio degli Schiavoni).
The painting collection
The collection contains some 150 paintings by Mariano Fortuny, which illustrate the various phases in this aspect of his career as an artist.The Wagnerian period, up until 1899, holds a central place. This meeting and blissful balance of painting and theatre mark an intimate understanding of the dream and myth that thrilled Europe at the end of the nineteenth century.
Equally fascinating, for other reasons, are the portraits, in which the family, and particularly his wife Henriette, play a fundamental role: here inspiration becomes an intimate chronicle in the context of stylistic inheritance from his grandfather, Federico de Madrazo; his uncles Raymundo and Ricardo; his friend Boldini.
The Study of the Female Nude (1988) made when he was just seventeen years old is the first pictorial attempt known by the young Mariano. This theme, which he continued referring back to (the latest of these exhibited here, Reclining Female Nude, is from 1946), became the palimpsest of techniques and styles interwoven even through his photographic work.
The core of photographs shown at Palazzo Fortuny are taken from either the collection left by Mariano Fortuny or from the rich collection of the Musei Civici di Venezia, both of which are now undergoing full re-organisation within the Fortuny Museum itself. The entire collection comprises works from 1850 to the Second World War, with a rich variety of styles, techniques and historic images.
The Fortuny Museum’s collection of clothes, fabrics, trial prints, materials and ornamental clothes of one type or another make up a rich sample of Fortuny’s extraordinary work in the field of fabrics and fashion design, in which the artist took old ornamental motifs and reinterpreted them in a very “modern” decorative style.