As an admirer of Fornasetti, having sourced their designs for projects, I visited their Milan showroom earlier on this year. It’s like going back in time and the staff are wonderful. The collection is displayed like fine crafts in a museum and the exceptional quality is there to see. The brand is unique; they are playful and have such wit, yet are classic and each piece is so elegantly finished. Below is a short account of their world.
“Fornasetti designed a magical world, saturated in image and colour and filled with whimsy and wit.”
The man himself, Piero Fornasetti, born in 1913 in Milan, was a master of painting, sculpture, engraving and interior decoration. He created more than 11,000 items in his time – heavily influenced by Greek and Roman architecture, his work often included use of black and white, the sun and time, hands and self portraits. He is thought of as one of the most original artists in the 20th century.
One of Piero’s great talents was to constantly evolve the themes of the Fornasetti brand in infinite variations. His muse: Lina Cavalieri, the famous trademark face of the brand an operatic soprano for his collection Tema & Variazioni, He saw her as the perfect archetype – classically beautiful like a Greek statue or the Mona Lisa. Her face adorns more than 350 items of the Fornasetti collection, most famously on ceramic plates.
“What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman?” asks Italian designer, Piero Fornasetti of himself. “I don’t know,” he admits, “I began to make them and I never stopped”
Presently his son Barnaba runs Fornasetti, carrying on the ever-popular brand with much dedication to reviving original designs and keeping in-house production. Today the Fornasetti face and patterns are seen on plates, scarves, tables, lamps etc. Their production of such items remains the same – every items being crafted with artisan techniques. You could say that each item is an original piece of art – numbered and signed by the painter.
The Atelier in Milan is where Fornasetti craft production – here skilled craftsmen and women use the same rigorous handcrafted techniques as were employed on the very first Fornasetti products. Many of the pieces created are masterfully made to ensure true likeness and quality to the original furniture and objects. Barnaba has much involvement in the running of the Atelier to this day.
The Fornasetti house itself can be seen in the Città Studi area of Milan and was built by Piero’s parents in the 19th century. The house is made up of a complex and intricate network of rooms and corridors and is richly adorned with pieces that have inspired Fornasetti – an archive of the style. Vivid coloured furniture and artwork, unusual objects and curiosities.
The Fornasetti House
Currently Fornasetti work with quality licensed partners including; Cole & Son to distribute stunning Fornasetti wallpapers, Bitossi the master ceramicists to produce classic vases of Tema & Variazioni, Cermaica Bardelli who craft classic Fornasetti tiles for residential use and Roubini who produce fine artisan rugs with Piero Fornasetti original designs.
Fornasetti tiles add a classic colonial feel in our Dalston project bathroom
As well as these classic designs, Fornasetti can craft bespoke items in the Atelier at the request of clients. These unique commissions are closely supervised by Barnaba Fornasetti himself – ensuring each product meets the standard that characterize the brand.
“Dear Contemporaries, don’t you realize how different we are? Although I depict you as equals and like the ancients you never change.” – Piero Fornasetti