While on my first trip to Venice last November, I developed a bit of an obsession with Mariano Fortuny. His palazzo was where Axel Vervoordt showed his exhibit for the Bienniale, and if it wasn't for that I'd probably never had gone to the Palazzo Orfei. The only thing I knew was the name of the impossibly expensive Fortuny fabrics; I didn't realize that in his life he accomplished so much more.
He now is of course most famous for his lavish fabrics, still made secretly in the same factory in Venice. But he also was a master photographer (see previous Henry James post), able to figure out the camera before many others. A famous fashion designer: Sarah Bernhardt, Marchesa Casati, Lady Diana Cooper, Isadora Duncan to name a few were all customers. His name is even mentioned by Proust in The Remembrance of Things Past. Master inventor: 22 (!) patents were taken out in his name, most of which were for the theater which are still used today; ie: lighting controlled back-stage, the lighting of quarter-domes found in most theaters, photographic papers, fabric printing techniques, etc. Not to mention painter of countless paintings and sculptor...The man was a genius.
Delphos Gown, 1909
He rented a few rooms in the Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei with his wife to work and gradually bought the rest little by little until the entire palace was his home/studio, and thankfully today we can go and explore it ourselves. The Vervoordt exhibit was amazing, but I think discovering about him and his work, seeing where he worked, smelling the oil paint (still!) was all the more thrilling!
I read a brief biography about him, but can't really find something more substantial...does it exist? If it does, please let me know. If not, I think I want to write his full story.
I can easily say this is my favorite place in Italy I've seen so far, so if you come, please visit it, or better yet, let me know and I'll meet you there.