At a time when most designers were rejecting ornament, Italian artist, craftsman, and fashion designer Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988) embraced it, resulting in over 11,000 creations. Born in Milan where he lived and worked for his entire life, his career began when his silk scarves caught the attention of Gio Ponti and the fashion world. He eventually collaborated with Ponti on various pieces of furniture and interiors. A consummate craftsman with a proclivity toward Surrealism and the styles of Italy’s past, Fornasetti’s designs adorn a variety of home furnishings and materials, including furniture, lighting, screens, glass, fabric, and plates. His pieces present a peculiar juxtaposition of classical design with modern forms, placing Fornasetti the designer in a playful realm all on his own.
One such piece is Giardino del 18th Secolo, a screen from circa 1955, the form simple and functional, yet lacquered in a surreal, dream-like repeating pattern of a stately home surrounded by pleasure gardens.
The Vecchie Carte garden table (c. 1955) harkens back to the 19th century with a traditional wrought iron base that supports an enameled steel top. As if to defy order and celebrate a collecting craftsman’s frenzied workspace, Fornasetti creates a trompe l’oeil scene of delicately scattered themes and variations that grace so many of his other works: pastoral illustrations, French sheet music, English and Italian poetry, Dutch tobacco advertisements, and a box of butterfly specimens. A rare potpourri of designs, these works showcase a designer with a restless imagination who artfully poked fun at and paid homage to Europe’s rich historical past.
Mauries, Patrick. Fornasetti: Designer of Dreams, London: Thames and Hudson, 1991. Print.