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 Mariano Fortuny Y Madrazo  (1871 - 1949)

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Lived/Active: Italy/Spain      Known for: Art Nouveau textile design, portrait and figure painting

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from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo was one of the most creative minds of his time.  He mainly worked in Italy, and he was renowned for his Art Nouveau textiles that included fine-pleated silk gowns, lustrous silk and velvet scarves.

Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo was born in 1871 in Granada, Spain and his father, Mariano Fortuny y Marsal, was also a painter and an eclectic collector of Ancient oriental tissues and carpets, rare potteries and metal armories.

His father died when he was only three and his mother, also much involved with art, moved the family to Paris where Mariano started painting. ??In 1889, the family moved to Venice, Italy, and Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo established his atelier-laboratory in a magnificent palace (Palazzo Pesaro Orfei), which eventually became the Palazzo Fortuny, now the Fortuny Museum. ?? His life was dedicated to Art as he was not only an accomplished dress and fabric designer, but he also excelled in various disciplines such as interior and stage design, painting, photography, architecture, lighting. ??Fortuny also invented new methods of textile dyeing and of printing processes onto fabrics, reproducing the depth, color and beauty of ancient brocades, velvets and tapestries. ??Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo died in his Venetian Palace 1949 and was burried in the Verano Cimetery in Rome.

At the turn of the century, he experimented applying the newly invented electric light to stage design and worked also with the famous Italian writer Gabriele D'Annunzio.

For internal decoration he created the elegant Fortuny's lamps, which diffused subtle light through opalescent silk shades, stretched over delicate wire form.  The silk was hand-painted with gold motifs inspired by Oriental art and as a finishing touch, the lamps were decorated with glass beads and silk cording.

In the early 1900s, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo was attracted by new styles and designs in textiles and fashion, by the new aesthetic and functional concepts promoted by reformers of the new applied arts, such as English designer William Morris or painter E. Burne-Jones, and by their theories on a modern style freed from the restraints of convention.

In those years, Fortuny created the "Knossos scarf", his first purely fashion garment, made of silk, rectangular in shape, and printed with geometric, asymmetrical patterns.

In 1907, Fortuny created his most spectacular Art Nouveau dress: the"Delphos robe" in pleated silk, was made famous by theatrical legends Isadora Duncan and Sarah Bernhardt. Designed in a revolutionary shape, inspired by ancient Grecian gown, the long dresses were simple and loose, artistic and functional; their borders were usually finished with Venetian colored glass beads, which were both ornamental and functional. ??All the pleated and printed silk, the dresses and the scarves were hand-made in his studio, as were the multi-colored velvets, the satin linings, the silk cording and belts.

Before being made up, the silks were dyed in every color imaginable, with different designs or color combinations, changing according to light and movement.?  His works were inspired by the floral designs of Ottoman textiles, by luxurious Renaissance embroidery, and by the abstract patterns, the vibrant colors of Persian Art. ??

The great French writer, Marcel Proust, wrote about Fortuny's dresses :?"Of all the indoor and outdoor gowns that Mme de Guermantes wore, those which seemed most to respond to a definite intention, to be endowed with a special significance, were the garments made by Fortuny y Madrazo from old Venetian models. Is it their historical character, is it rather the fact that each one of them is unique that gives them so special a significance that the pose of the woman who is wearing one while she waits for you to appear or while she talks to you assumes an exceptional importance...?" ?? Fortuny y Madrazo created some of the most remarkable and timeless pleated silk gowns and velvet scarves, fabrics and dresses. Very fashionable today, it is still a mystery how the fine pleats in the silk were achieved. The scarves allowed great freedom of movement to the female body and they were designed in an attempt to fuse form and fabric. ??Their beauty lies in the elegant simplicity, the perfect cut, the superior quality of the material and the richness and sensuality of the colors. All these elements, perfectly integrated, make a Fortuny garment a "work of art."


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