We have handled the sale of hundreds of works by Piero Fornasetti, from fantastic functional furnishings to the artist’s own bicycle and a variety of interior accessories. Recognized for their incredible trompe-l’oeil decoration, Fornasetti’s designs add a touch of fun and fantasy to any interior. In an effort to ensure the integrity of the market and preserve his valued legacy, we work closely with the Fornasetti atelier run by the designer's son, Barnaba Fornasetti, to ensure authenticity and vintage.
Piero Fornasetti 1913–1988
Piero Fornasetti was born in Milan in 1913 and he grew up with an insatiable desire to draw anything and everything. He won a seat at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, but was promptly expelled; his creative spirit did not match the harsh discipline of the academy. He forayed into the realm of fashion and began designing silk scarves with his soon-to-be signature motifs of roman ruins, suns, and flowers. In his furniture designs, Fornasetti worked in an incredible range of materials to create a dizzying array of decorative arts imbued with both wit and theatricality. Struck with the beauty of the famed Italian opera star Lina Cavalieri, Fornasetti created an entire series called “Themes and Variations” with more than 300 versions of Cavalieri’s face. With tongue in cheek irony, Fornasetti depicted Cavalieri in a variety of guises ranging from the humorous to the surreal. In 1959, Fornasetti won the Neiman Marcus award for his significant contributions to the field of fashion, joining the ranks of Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel. Fornasetti died in 1988, leaving behind thousands of imaginative designs and forever changing the field of Italian decorative arts.
With imperturbable patience Fornasetti fills [functional objects] with drawn inventions, fictions, allusions, symbols ... evocations as well as slyness and sweetness; he fills them with illusions.
Piero Fornasetti (center left) and Gio Ponti (center right) among friends and colleagues. Photograph courtesy of Fornasetti
Great Minds: Piero Fornasetti and Gio Ponti
Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
The inspiring work of Piero Fornasetti
Still life painting can be traced to the ancient frescoes and mosaics of Greece and Rome, but the modern lineage began with Caravaggio’s Canestra di Frutta of 1599. Caravaggio depicted the foliage and fruit in this painting in a less than ideal way, and it has been interpreted as a metaphor for the church whose doctrine was showing the decay of age. The realistic depiction of fruit and foliage in a tromp l’oeil manner spurred innovations in painting from Madrid to Amsterdam. However, it is the Dutch artists of the 17th century who created a truly independent genre of still life painting.
Ubiquitous still life images of abundant flowers are seen today as the most conventional mode of painting, but a dissection of its history and influence reveals a great deal beyond pure aesthetic beauty or artifice. Bouquets of flowers emerged in Northern European painting, namely Flemish and Dutch circles, in the first quarter of the 17th century as symbols of prosperity. At this time, a merchant class emerges as the first consumer society in Europe, with great wealth being drawn in from all corners of the globe. Along with treasured spices and porcelain, explorers and tradesmen brought exotic plants and flowers, which were often coveted and valued as richly as gemstones. The monied class commissioned pictures by artists such as Jan Brueghel the Elder and his peers, both to celebrate this bounty but also to remind them of the brevity of life and the transience of its beauty. Paintings of flowers prolonged the experience of nature, sustaining pleasure indefinitely through seasons or years.
In fact, it seems that when I was a child I asked a neighbor woman not for sweets or toys, but for a box, and perhaps that is how my interest in compact shapes came into being. In fact, the objects that I have created over forty years, even if their decorations overflow with imagination, are all tied to extremely simple and clean shapes.
Auction Results Piero Fornasetti