Mariano Fortuny (1871 – 1949) has been described as a “Renaissance man” – an artist and artisan whose understanding of light and color enabled him to create beautiful fabrics through a patented process that no one else could replicate. Collectors continue to seek out his pleated silk gowns almost a century after he created them. Interior decorators use his textiles to cover walls, headboards, and chairs or to create pillows and tablecloths because they reflect light and possess a rich, luxurious quality that is absent in other fabrics.
“In a corner of the dining room, an ebony desk holds Dana’s treasures from the ocean. ‘We love our time on the beach and wanted to capture that experience in our home,’ she says. ‘The artwork consists mostly of seascapes.’ ” Fort Worth, Texas, home of Dana and David Porter. Interior design by Joseph Minton. Photography by Emily Minton Redfield. “Pretty Colors for an Architectural Classic” written by Candace Ord Manroe. Traditional Home.
“The dining room’s George III mahogany china cupboard displays Dana’s Chinese porcelain collection. Curtains are blue silk from Bauer Design & Drapery. The de Gournay wallpaper’s palette [Askew] is derived from the Fortuny fabric on the custom chairs [“Campanelle”/Blue, Silvery Gold #5318 Fortuny fabrics].” Fort Worth, Texas, home of Dana and David Porter. Interior design by Joseph Minton. Photography by Emily Minton Redfield. “Pretty Color for an Architectural Classic” written by Candace Ord Manroe. Traditional Home.
Fortuny studied etching and experimented with photography and electricity – two inventions that were new in his day. He revolutionized the theater by creating stage lighting and cloth that could be used for backdrops. Despite his varied interests, he thought of himself as a painter. He copied the work of the Old Masters and developed his own pigments using ancient methods. “Through painting, he learned the subtle uses and harmonies of color. His fabrics were . . . conceived as paintings: dyed in successive layers of colors to create special interplays of light, printed and retouched by hand with the aid of a paintbrush and other instruments, each roll possessed unique textures and patterns that were never repeated.” [From Fortuny by Guillermo de Osma]
“A Rose Tarlow linen velvet on the sofa is the color of sand. Blue Fortuny joins a mix of sofa pillows and covers an armchair near the sunroom.” Photography by Emily Minton Redfield. “Pretty Color for an Architectural Classic” written by Candace Ord Manroe. Traditional Home.
Mariano Fortuny was born in Granada, Spain, lived in Paris for a time, and then moved to Venice with his mother after his father, a well-regarded painter, died unexpectedly. Young Fortuny explored the art galleries, churches, and streets of this Italian city – embracing its sense of history. He felt that “the study of the past would teach him more than if he immersed himself in the current confusion of artistic styles and doctrines.” His home was filled with textiles and objects that his father had collected – “rare pieces of Hispano-Moresque pottery, Persian carpets, Islamic metalwork and armory of every sort . . . antique Spanish furniture,” and these treasures provided inspiration for Fortuny’s colors and motifs. According to Guillermo de Osma, author of Fortuny, Mariano’s favorite periods were classical Greece, the Renaissance, and the great Venetian art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.” He also was influenced by Arabic culture during its age of expansion when it included Morocco, India, Persia, and the Near East. He created a patented gown, the silk Delphos, which was inspired by the Greek chiton.
Fortuny was “a great lover and collector of Venetian glass” [Fortuny by Guillermo de Osma]. The Delphos gown pictured here features opal glass Venetian beading.
“Fortuny invented fashion outside fashion, fashion that does not change, fashion as art” [Fortuny by Guillermo de Osma]. The gowns he created in the 1920s were worn by the actress Ethel Barrymore and dancers such as Isadora Duncan. The Delphos was embraced half a century later by women such as the actress Julie Christie and the model Lauren Hutton. Fortuny’s work influenced the designer Karl Lagerfeld.
The Great War’s aftermath demanded change. Fortuny acquired velvet from Lyons and silk from Japan, but the costs of both increased so much that he had to begin working with long-staple Egyptian cotton. The cottons became very popular with interior decorators, and Mariano was asked to provide design advice for socialites such as Consuelo Vanderbilt. The Fortuny draperies in the next photo are cotton:
“Draperies of a Fortuny cotton add warmth to a living room niche furnished with a sofa covered in a Lelievre velour from Starke; the mirror and table are 19th-century Italian.” Architect: William Hablinski. Interior design by Alexandra and Michael Misczynski, Atelier AM. Photography by Pieter Estersohn. Text by Mayer Rus. “A Classical Las Vegas Home” produced by Howard Christian. Architectural Digest (September 2012).
“A glass-paned wall and French doors keep the bath’s grand cathedral ceiling visible from the master bedroom. The bedcover is Fortuny’s Mazzarino in Tan and Brown. Diva lamp by McGuire.” Interior design by Orlando Diaz-Azcuy. Photography by David Duncan Livingston. “A Sophisticated San Francisco House” by Mimi Read. House Beautiful.
Mariano Fortuny “made unabashed use of traditional ideas to realize his dreams and projects, adapting them to his own aesthetic vision and producing objects and inventions which dazzled his contemporaries.” [Fortuny by Guillermo de Osma]
“Swedish 18th-c. library table with 19th- and 20th-c. Chinese jars. French light fixture. Pair of 19th-c. fauteuils in vintage Fortuny fabric.” Home of interior designer Shannon Bowers. Photography by Peter Vitale. “Well-Lived: Texas Home With Swedish Appeal” by Victoria Amory. Veranda.
“It was also in the library [of his thirteenth-century home/studio, the Palazzo Fortuny] that Fortuny prepared, to precise formulas, the dyes with which he laboriously worked, layer upon layer, to achieve the mysteriously changing and transparent color of his velvets.” [Fortuny by Guillermo de Osma]
“In the library, a hand-painted mural on brass leaf depicting the facade of Venice’s Doge’s Palace is fronted by a 1957 shelving unit by Franco Albini; the 1960 Italian chairs are covered in a Fortuny velvet, the custom cowhide rug is based on a Ponti design, and the tripod table is by Fontana Arte.” Interior design by Jim Luigs. Photography by Richard Powers. Text by Celia Barbour. “House Tour: A Venice-Inspired Manhattan Apartment” produced by Tamzin Greenhill. Elle Decor.
“A French antique loveseat covered in Kathryn M. Ireland’s red Woven fabric nestles under the living room staircase; pink and gold pillows are Fortuny. Red cashmere throw from J. Roaman.” Photography by Victoria Pearson. “Kathryn Ireland’s Bold and Bright Ojai Home” by Alexandria Abramian-Mott. House Beautiful (March 2008).
” ‘I didn’t want over-the-top florals, but rather florals with a subtle, hand-blocked feeling,’ Maya says of the Robert Kime linens, Suzani for the stools and Lilac Lamp for the curtains. Armchairs in Marigot stripe from Rogers & Goffigon. Vintage Fortuny pillows on the sofa. The walls are painted a subtle shade of blue, Benjamin Moore’s Lookout Point.” Interior design by Christopher Maya. Photography by Lucas Allen. “A Bold and Color-Filled New York Apartment” by Jane Margolies. House Beautiful (September 2013).
“Grandly arched windows in the 18-foot-high living room are framed by the icy blue of Holland & Sherry Glace curtains in Glacier. Maya designed the sofas and had throw pillows made from antique Fortuny fabric.” Manhattan maisonette. Interior design by Christopher Maya. “Christopher Maya’s Artistic Accessories” by Carol Prisant. House Beautiful (June 2008).
“A reflective wall accentuates the ornate shape of an Italian Rococo mirror. Custom banquette in Fortuny fabric. Silver John Hutton chairs, Sutherland. Antique Italian chairs in Clarence House and Brunschwig & Fils fabrics.” Interior design by Beverly Field. Architecture by Richardson Robertson III. Project managed by Brad Kelly. Photography by Max Kim-Bee. Text by Nancy Perot. “Glamorous Texas Home” produced by Carolyn Englefield. Veranda.
“A garden motif enlivens the master bedroom. Headboard and bedcoverings in Fortuny fabric. Chair and ottoman in Scalamandré fabric and Clarence House fringe. Mirrors in alcove and bench in Colefax and Fowler fabric, East & Orient Company. Wallpaper, de Gournay. Carpet, Stark.” Interior design by Beverly Field. Architecture by Richardson Robertson III. Project managed by Brad Kelly. Photography by Max Kim-Bee. Text by Nancy Perot. “Glamorous Texas Home” produced by Carolyn Englefield. Veranda.
“Candlesticks and console, all Rosselli. Grisaille wallpaper panel, tole urn and garden seat, all antiques. Tablecloth in vintage Fortuny fabric.” Americus, Georgia, home of Furlow Gatewood. Photography by Max Kim-Bee. “Well-Lived: 19th-Century Southern Cottage” by Carol Prisant. Veranda.
Janet Brown Interiors sells pillows made from new and vintage Fortuny fabrics. The following photos depict the pillows that currently are available. We invite you to come see the beauty of these fabrics in person.
Did you know that Janet Brown Interiors sells decorating books? We have copies of Fortuny Interiors by Brian D. Coleman for anyone who wishes to learn more about Fortuny and view additional photos of rooms featuring his fabrics.
“Fortuny—the most beautiful, timeless and unique fabrics in the world.” —Brian D. Coleman, author of Fortuny Interiors (2012).
One must not seek to be modern simply by doing what hasn’t been done before, for this leads to extravagance; on the contrary one should coordinate the efforts of the preceding ages to show how our century can best accept its heritage and make use of it.
Gustave Moreau (Quote from Chapter One of Fortuny by Guillermo de Osma)
Post by Kathleen Sams Flippen for Janet Brown Interiors.