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LIVE 24-SEVEN


in countless obtuse ways for application to anything from umbrella stands to sideboards. Naturally for Fornasetti, one idea always led to another, often a small detail would be just the starting point marking the germination of endless variations arising from one idea.


Fornasetti's fanciful pieces were always witty and imaginative. In his motifs, he favoured the sun, moon and stars, playing cards, animals, flowers, architecture and cityscapes to name but a few. One of his most ‘iconic’ images and one that I personally love is that of operatic soprano Lina Cavalieri. While glancing through a 19th century French magazine, Fornasetti came across a simple monochrome image of her face. Her classical proportions and feminine beauty instantly captivated him and he went on to reproduce her likeness in over 500 variations, transforming her into a never-ending series of images, placing her face over the surface of a balloon, transformed into a lioness or repeated in a kaleidoscopic pattern of repetition. “What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman?” Fornasetti asked of himself. “I don’t know, I began to make them and I never stopped.” Fornasetti renamed her ‘Julia’ and the range was titled ‘Themes & Variations’; it remains one of Fornasetti’s most instantly recognisable and popular images and has been applied to virtually every element of interior decoration, from cushions and carpets to cups and cupboards! A small dish or cushion cover can start from as little £30, whilst a small sideboard will cost upwards of £3,000.


Fornasetti was quite simply prolific! His output is one of the largest back catalogues of a 20th century designer with over 11,000 creations to his name. The associations he formed, commissions he undertook and the quantity of work he created made him a giant of post-war Italian design. His work created a style and theme that was to become intrinsically Italian. While many contemporaries the world over looked to replicate the use of print and pattern for surface decoration, few could come close to the creative genius of Fornasetti.


Recognition must also go to the designers he chose to work with, including Richard Ginori and Gio Ponti. Ponti was over 20 years older than Fornasetti when they met, however the great Italian architect was instantly impressed with the young designer’s skills and creative mind. Their combined genius created a series of highly important interior schemes, with equally important furnishings. Their bureau-bookcase represents one of the earliest collaborations by Ponti with his young protégé. Over subsequent years it was re-visited with many variations, however it remains the signature landmark of their collaborative genius. Recently an early original example created in 1950 was sold at Christies in London for £102,000!


Being as distinctive as they are, bargains are rare! Pieces are easy to identify and research, so many national and international auction houses and online sellers usually know exactly what they have. Early issues are always more valuable and sought after, however period pieces can still be purchased in the tens of pounds, while significant pieces can very quickly realise thousands.


The modern articles issued from the Atelier Fornasetti are set to be as important to future generations as the originals are to today’s. Each design is issued in a strict limited edition and each is executed to the same exacting standards of the original. Each is handcrafted and painstakingly decorated with a unique printing process where images are transferred on to a specially prepared lacquered surface. These aren’t for the faint-hearted, as we are talking of investments in the thousands, however I feel sure that in the future they will prove to be safe investments while giving years of pleasure.


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BUYERS GUIDE PI ERO FORNAS E T T I


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