Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Fashions of Fortuny

Mariano Fortuny was born in 1871 in Grenada, Spain. His father died when he was three, and the family then moved to Paris, where Fortuny studied painting with his uncle. In 1889, the family moved to a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice. Fortuny was enchanted with the exotic city, and immersed himself in Medieval, Renaissance and Eastern influences, as well as the Arts and Crafts Movement.

In 1899, Fortuny established his own studio in the 13th century Palazzo Orfei. He became well known for his textile designs and in 1906 was hired to design a stage curtain and ballet costumes for a production in Paris. He printed large silk veils with stencils inspired by ancient Cycladic art and draped these around each dancer. The stenciled patterns were built in layers, often shimmering with silver and gold.

Fortuny named the garment the Knossos veil, and it remains one of his best known works and continued to sell well into the 1930s to women all over the world.


Fortuny designed the Delphos dress in 1907 to wear with the Knossos veil. Each Delphos dress was constructed of 4 or 5 widths of pleated silk and finished with cords that laced at the neck and shoulders so the wearer could adjust the dress as she saw fit. The dress came with a narrow stenciled belt or braided silk cord. Fortuny ordered Murano glass beads, which were sewn along the sides and around the hem of the dresses to add weight so the dresses would cling to the body.

Each Delphos dress was twisted and coiled, then stored in a round white box tied with black ribbon. Fortuny made subtle variations of the Delphos gowns for more than 30 years. Each dress was completely made by hand and each was unique.

Fortuny also designed coats and wraps adapted from traditional kimonos, saris, and other ethnic clothing. Each article of clothing was made from Fortuny's custom made fabrics, which he printed and stenciled in his studio. And each garment was unique and one-of-a-kind.

Please note: Biographical information about Fortuny is copyright of Couture Allure and may not be copied without permission.

Images courtesy of Houston Museum of Fine Arts, New York Metropolitan Museum, and the Phoenix Art Museum.

7 comments:

puddin said...

have you ever found a Fortuny for CoutureAllure?

Wearing History said...

*swoon* Thanks for posting this. Fortuny was the master.

Miss Jess said...

Very nice. I was always impressed with the fact that NO ONE, NO ONE! has ever been able to replicate Fortuny's pleating technique - and that customers could send their pleated dresses back to Fortuny's studio to be re-pleated if anything happened. Talk about customer service! I was lucky enough to see a few Fortuny pieces at an exhibition when I was in school, part of the school's extensive designer/couture collection. Quite thrilling!

Vix said...

Always love to see Fortuny creations, thank you!

One note, and I hope you will consider an addition once you source to your high standards--

Until I went to the Fortuny Museum, I hadn't realized that Henriette Negrin, his muse/wife, collaborated heavily with him on his designs and production techniques. Among other things, she is considered a co-creator of the Delphos.

Negrin continued to oversee production of his creations after he died. While one can still buy some authentic, reproduction Fortuny textiles made with the same techniques direct from the company's factory ($$$), the dresses were not produced after Negrin's death.

[This was allegedly by Fortuny's wishes, but of course I wonder: in tribute or because she took some production secrets to the grave?]

I also hadn't realized he was a painter; many of his female nudes hang in the museum/palazzo (his former home). I can't help but think that in addition to his close work with Negrin, his obvious appreciation for and understanding of the female body contributed to his wonderful designs.

ps Some of the Fortuny-Negrin collaboration is documented in "Drapery: Classicism and Barbarism in Visual Culture"...don't know if you have that on your shelf but I'd recommend!

lori said...

What an amazing tale.=I love that last photo. Just beautiful.

Belle de Ville said...

Great post. I love all things fortuny but I'm never be lithe enough to wear all those pleats.

artgeoff said...

You may like to look at Maria Duenas book "The Seamstress", where a Delphos dress, after Fortuny, features about 1/3 way through.

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