Sunday, November 30, 2008


I am trying to work on some new paintings but I can't concentrate-ugh! Instead, I cannot stop thinking about the famous painter, inventor, fashion designer, textile designer,photographer, theatre set designer and all around amazing Mariano Fortuny(1871-1949)who lived in Venice, Italy and had an amazing studio/warehouse/workshop there.

His dress designs were influenced by the ancient Greek pleated shifts as well as the Medieval European flowing velvet gowns. His designs were copied by his contempories and you can see his influence in the fashions of today as well.

I first saw some of his pieces when I went to work at the Indianapolis Children's Museum ages ago. I went there to work the artifacts in the Collections department. I built mannequins to fit the gorgeous textiles so that they would not be damaged. One of my first assignments was an actual Fortuny Gown! Fortuny is known for amazing pleated silks and silk screened velvet-this gown had both. It was love at first sight. Here is the famous "Gryphon Gown" dressed with the mannequin I made.

It is a crazy story as to how the museum came to have it. It happens that a teacher at a local high school found 2 amazing gowns in the costume closet of the theatre department. She thought they were interesting and donated them to the museum. On closer inspection, the curators at the museum realized that they were geniune FORTUNYS! They have his labels inside and everything. Since then, we have lent them out other museums in the area-what a find! The museum also has several other Fortunys that I have been lucky enough to work with-what a dream!

Fortuny also invented the dimmer switch to be used in theatre but most people now have dimmers in their homes. To me, this just means that a creative mind goes all over the place and why shouldn't it? He also invented one of the first artist's taberates-a simple device to hold your art supplies as well as a lamp-of course he did! One of the most hilarious photographs I ever saw of Fortuny shows him in his office surrounded by books with his head on his desk and his eye closed-he is either passed out or napping. I would be tired too. He was also one of the first portrait photographers-again, why not?

A dear friend also has the "Fortuny Madness" and gave me the gift of lifetime for my birthday a few years back. I opened a huge box to find a teal silk gown that she had made for me! It is in a Medieval style, but has a lighter aqua pleated fabric underskirt and she used the same fabric to line the sleeves because she knew I would LOVE it! It is so FORTUNY! She even made a matching drawstring bag! She trimmed the sleeves of the dress and made a belt for it out of vintage sari trim that just glitters and shimmers. This gown is a dream come true. She also kept in mind the gown in Waterhouse's "Miranda" as I just love this painting too. I give her an A+++++++++!

All hail that crazy creative Fortuny! His fashions live on in modern designers like Mary McFadden and more. More recently, I have become infatuated with this Anna Sui dress I saw online at the Anthropologie website-love the Fortuny-like pleating, the soft silk velvet, the gorgeous beaded detail at the hem. Ah Fortuny, I love everything you ever did! Here are some more images of his great works and works influences by his greatness.
This is the dress I am MAD for!

And again-

And, more Fortuny goodness-

Back to drawing and painting!


Heather said...

oh the prettiness! Love those dresses, and that is such a crazy story about the Fortuny dresses, makes you wonder what other gems are out there just waiting to be discovered!

Anonymous said...

Oh I feel Fortuny maddness taking me over as well - hahaha! I never even knew he existed until I read your post-- Thanks for sharing that wonderful information and pictures!!!

RowanDevoe said...

Heather-it really does! I wonder how they got all the way over here?

divaforever-welcome to the club! it is very hard to resist all things Fortuny!

Robin said...

I feel so lucky that I got to see the Fortunys! Hail Beauty!

RowanDevoe said...

Hail Fortuny and his creations indeed! Yeah, Jno says next time we visit textiles some of the Fortunys some of them might be "missing" as well as "My Precious" the cat mummy!
She says they just don't get the love and respect they used to-we can surely fix that!