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Fornasetti

 
 

The Muse as Motif....
(or why we prefer abstract patterns!)

   

 

  

 

The muse as recurring motif…we're not entirely sure if we quite like the work of Milanese designer Piero Fornasetti, but Fornasetti more than liked Lina Cavalieri's face when it stared out at him from a magazine: wide almond eyes and dreamy mysterious stare, sensual mouth, dark features and pale skin, the sphinx-like mystery of her femininity, a muse transformed into motif that he reproduced on his famous plates in endless variations and whose face now stares out from chairs and vases, even teapots….  She was a famous opera singer he had never met.  It was an obsession. And then the compulsion to fix her visage, transforming her into something like the boteh of paisley…but of course the difference is that his motifs are not abstractions, and therein, we think, lies the difference….


Adam and Eve plates

His work is possessed of a certain imaginative wit.  Other recurring themes: playing cards, sun, moon and stars, Piranesi-like engravings.  There are the famous Adam and Eve plates, a set of 24, representing Adam and Eve, deconstructed. 

Fornasetti was inspired by a wide variety of sources: Picasso, Dali, Op Art, Surrealism, Ravenna, Renaissance architecture.  His compulsion for repetition paralleled developments in Surrealism and Dada, as did the use of feminine iconography and the often fetishistic insistence on a limited set of loaded imagery: sunflowers, fish, Roman architecture all recur with remarkable persistency.  Pages from newspapers in Italian and Hebrew, acrobats.  The ludic or playful element is part of the quirky charm.  Fornasetti later collaborated with Giò Ponti, the Milanese architect and designer, decorating pieces of furniture that Ponti designed.  We like the pieces where the decoration is most abstracted, as in the chair below, butterflies transformed into leopard-like spots...


 Giò Ponti and Piero Fornasetti, Armchair, 1951

There was something of a revival of interest in his work in the 80s, when collectors began looking for vintage pieces.  Of these, the most wanted are the ones with the characteristic bold black and white trompe l'oeil motifs.  His oeuvre is really about the idea of surface decoration that is representational gone mad, gone industrial….and even Fornasetti himself had no idea as to why he did what he did: "What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman?  I don't know.  I began to make them and I never stopped."  We think his work has contradictory implications: an argument for abstract pattern in surface decoration, but also an affirmation of the eccentric!

 

Explore: Fornasetti, Designer of Dreams, Patrick Mauries, amazon.com 


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