EVERYBODY KNOWS HIS WORK – INKED, PATTERNED, WITH A LARGE DOSE OF SURREALISM AND DEFINITELY UNMISTAKEABLE: THE OBJECTS FROM THE MILANESE DESIGNER PIERO FORNASETTI, WHICH HAVE LOST NONE OF THEIR FASCINATION TODAY.
No one could blur the borders between object design, art and articles of everyday use as masterfully as he – Piero Fornasetti. Born on 10th November 1913 in Milan as one of four children from an entrepreneurial family, the arts fascinated him from an early age. It would later prove to be his good fortune that his brother declared that he was prepared to carry on the family business, leaving the way clear for Piero to pursue artistic studies. However, his days as a student in Brera were not to last long, after only two years he was expelled from the school, due to insubordination.
A true autodidact and artist, who would not let himself be pigeonholed into a restricted artistic genre, this expulsion proved only beneficial to his career. In 1933 at the Milan Triennale, while exhibiting his self-painted scarves – at only 20 years of age – he met the designer and architect Gio Ponti, who was to become his first sponsor. The beginning of a fruitful collaboration, in which they designed not only furniture, but also complete interior concepts.
Wildlife, butterflies, newspaper article excerpts or floral patterns – they all frolicked happily on the ever so characteristic, inked or patterned ashtrays, lamps, scarves, crockery or furniture from Fornasetti. His imagery is strong, unmistakeable and enriched with a large portion of humour and surrealism.
His probably most famous motif is well known even to those, who do not know Fornasetti by name. The face on his plates. It is that of no one less than the former Italian opera diva Lina Cavalieri. The divine soprano, who was considered the most beautiful woman in the world around 1900 and was adored by countless gentlemen in her lifetime, from which seven are supposed to have taken their life out of despair for her love. And it was not without good reason that even the Italian writer Gabriele D’Annunzio described her as „the greatest manifestation of Venus on earth “. Piero Fornasetti however fell for her posthumously in 1952, when he happened to be flicking through a French magazine. His obsession for her was no less significant. In his artistic creations he brought her face back to life over 350 times – with and without monocle, cheekily blinking, with her tongue out, with half of her face a skull and in countless other variations.
The only individual fabrication
In his private life the ingenious artist was regarded as an eccentric, who excelled in his exceptional rudeness. His son Barnaba, whom he referred to as his only individual fabrication, had a hard struggle with his father’s tyranny. Since his father’s death in 1988 Barnaba Fornasetti has been running the company and as such continues the legacy. He certainly managed to successfully bring the name Fornasetti to the fore again and to elevate it to a Must-Have for stylish interiors. Some would claim that Fornasetti’s work was never modern, but it is also true that it was never not modern.
So all that remains to say in the words of Getrude Stein: Fornasetti is a Fornasetti is a Fornasetti is a Fornasetti.
Via Nassa 3, 6900 Lugano, Switzerland
FORNASETTI STORE MILANO
Corso Venezia 21A (corner via Senato)
20121 Milano, Italy
Photos Copyrights: Fornasetti