Milano Triennale Exhibition this month of November 2013 celebrates 100 years of Piero Fornasetti’s work as a painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver. 100 years of practical madness is the name of the exhibition due to the practicality Fornasetti’s objects offer with a twist. A bit of surreal feel doesn’t hurt in everyday life, almost like an escape from reality. I particularly like a pixellated wall representing a woman’s eye with a real convex mirror as the iris. Face and hand are the trademarks of the Milanese born artist who produced approximately 13,000 objects through his artistic life. He took a theme and plaid on its variations to the nth power.
(Most photos shown in my slide are courtesy of ©Designboom)
His famous plates portraying the face of opera singer Lina (Natalina) Cavalieri are known worldwide and they are highly collectible. Fornasetti found her face in a nineteenth-century French magazine and used it in many variations creating whimsical imagery as he pleased. It has been said that Fornasetti was her assiduous admirer and covered his bathroom walls with many plates onto which Lina’s face was immortalized forever. It must have been hard to know he was only a small part of her large number of admirers, followers, fiancées and husbands. Apparently she was one of those rare beauties every men wanted. Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida reenacted her life in the film “The most beautiful woman in the world”.
Not all Fornasetti’s plates carry Lina’s face. He produced many more with animal and snakes with written, strange recipes printed on the front, such as snake à la Cleopatra and oyster egg omelette. Other plates design carried printed architectural details from Palladian villas, Venetian street scenes and symbols of Italian culture. He created chairs with capitals, dressers with lips and furniture with Neo-Classical building façades. His trompe-l’oeil screens are adorable, suitable for illusionist theatrical tricks, I would not mind having one example in my house. Being particularly attracted to the screen as a mobile object, Fornasetti studied the function of this element of décor through various historical periods and produced quite whimsical pieces also in many variations.
Remarkable are the variations of ashtrays that describe a culture of smoking, when smoking was accepted as both relaxation and social recreation. Shaped like small dishes, today his ashtrays can be used to serve canapés and will be perfectly fashionable on any table.
The Milano Triennale will stay open from November 2013 to February 9th, 2014.
The master illusionist of ornament and design left us numerous examples of objects that are, but they are really not, objects that are pleasant and functional and others that are purely decorative with no function. However we hope 100 more years will not pass before we can see practical madness again into everyday objects. Being Italian I can help you find some original pieces in the meander of Italy. Ciao,
Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian interior designer in business since 1990. She is passionate about colors and all expressive arts. She is a “colorist”. To her, selecting art means to bring out the best energy of her clients and nourish their soul. She is the author of her book on the subject of colors: ©Red-A Voyage Into Colors available on