The Genius of Fortuny

I knew Fortuny was a talented man: an inventor, artist, photographer, designer…but I didn’t realise until this week that he was a genius.

We had an appointment to see the Fortuny showrooms and private gardens on Giudecca in Venice. When we rang the bell, the door clicked and we stepped into an art nouveau world of shimmering material and floor-to-ceiling bolts of cloth. Beyond was an enclosed garden, the workshop walls covered with jasmine and an avenue of box hedges led to the private pool with views of the amazing architecture of the Stucky, a former gigantic flour mill and now the Hilton Hotel.

I love the fact that the machinery for weaving and printing Fortuny’s sumptuous fabrics is secret, only known to a dozen or so people. He used designs from Morocco, Portugal, Egypt and created patterns based on geographical features like islands. One design was copied from the Gesuiti Church in Venice, so that’s where we went next, to see what inspired him.

The interior of the baroque Jesuiti Church is a sea of blue and white designs, on the walls, the pillars, the pulpit, and the altar steps. At first glance it looks like painted marble, (or even expensive wallpaper!) but on closer inspection you can see that it’s all made from millions of tiny tesserae, even imitating folds of material draped round the pulpit, or a folded carpet on the floor.

This will become yet another article for Italy Magazine. Venice never fails to delight and surprise!

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