Piero Fornasetti

Designer of Dreams

Not interested in constructing new forms or discovering modern materials, Fornasetti was a protagonist of home environments. He favored decoration that had the power to amaze and cancel preconceived notions of space, logic and design. He searched constantly for surprise, magic and enchantment and, in the manner of De Chirico and the Surrealists, Fornasetti created illusion and abolished space-temporal logic with his fantastically decorated objects.

Created in 1953, this important work embodies Piero Fornasetti’s unique design philosophy. The chest of drawers, while not modern, is an archetypal form and anonymous in its simplicity. For Fornasetti, design was irrelevant; the cabinet was only a pretext for decoration, like a canvas for painting. The decoration of this work exhibits Fornastetti’s mastery of drawing and the trompe-l’oeil technique. The motif Palladiana, is one Fornasetti highly valued and one that continues to be a staple of the Fornasetti studio today. The motif features a 16th century villa with a classic garden in the Italian style. By Palladio, naturally? Absolutely not. Precisely because nothing is ever what it seems with Fornasetti and because he often conceals the truth, the work depicts a 16th century Austrian villa.

This cabinet comes from Fornasetti’s Villa in Varena.


This cabinet in the interior of Fornasetti's Villa in Varena. Fornasetti: The Complete Universe, Fornasetti

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.

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