Sunday, November 18, 2012

Villa Fornasetti

Mirrors in the Green Room of the summer villa
of the late Piero Fornasetti.
Photo by Robert Emmett Bright.
One of The Devoted Classicist's favorite furnishings designers by far is Piero Fornasetti.  Although inspired by classic historicism, Piero Fornasetti, 1913 to 1988, was one of the most innovative designers of the second half of the 20th century.

The Fornasetti summer villa overlooks
a finger of Lake Como, Italy.
Photo by Robert Emmett Bright.
After exile in Switzerland during World War II, Piero Fornasetti returned to Italy and began to renovate the summer villa that had been built by his father in 1899.  Near the village of Varenna on Lake Como, it is about an hour by train from Milan.

The terrace is decorated by a pair of carved figureheads.
The table and chairs were designed by Fornasetti in 1955.
Photo by Robert Emmett Bright.
Set on a small level shelf on the steep slope rising up from the lake, Fornasetti made only a few changes to the simple exterior.  A frieze of glazed terra-cotta tiles and brackets for the balcony, both with a Greek key motif, were added by Fornasetti.  The interior was completely transformed, however.

The Living Room at Villa Fornasetti.
Photo by Robert Emmett Bright.
In the Living Room, Fornasetti painted the tubular metal furniture to resemble bamboo.  Additional seating includes several antique neo-classical chairs and a pair of bentwood rockers.  An old frame was made into a mirror flanked by obelisk lamps made in 1955 and a 1930s self-portrait was hung over his 1954 "Como Leopardo" commode. 

An identical commode, number one of an edition of eight,
was offered in an auction December 14, 2010,
with an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
Wright auction, Chicago.
He also designed the red equestrian tiles inspired by 17th century prints bordered by a stencilled fret that trims the Living Room.  A life sized Roman foot from 1955 is ceramic with a terra-cotta finish and used as a vase.

A detail of the tile and stencilled fret
in the Living Room.
Photo by Robert Emmett Bright.
Just glimpsed through the doorway is the Entrance Hall covered with a specially created deep yellow paper.  The green room, a guest room in the first photo displays an assortment of mirrors, some made by Fornasetti, and others, antique.

The Guest Room at Villa Fornasetti.
Photo by Robert Emmett Bright.
The 1953 cabinet in the guest room is decorated with Fornasetti's ideal of classical antiquities and books arranged on shelves.  The round container by Fornasetti dates from 1955.


The Dining Room at Villa Fornasetti.
Photo by Robert Emmett Bright.
The Dining Room walls are painted an intense blue in contrast to the sunny colors of the Living Room.  Thousands of shells ordered from Venice were glued to the walls by son Barnaba over two summers.  Giula Fornasetti, the artist's widow, made the shell chandelier.

The Master Bedroom at Villa Fornasetti.
Photo by Robert Emmett Bright.
The yellow Master Bedroom featured an antique Scilian wrought iron bed that the artist restored and embellished.  Fornasetti designed the coordinating side chairs, the 1954 wardrobe covered in neo-classical images, the ceramic nubian vase, and the blue convex mirrors.

Piero Fornasetti's bed was offered at auction
May 18, 2008, with an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
Wright auction, Chicago.
A pair of side chairs of an edition of four
were offered at the same auction as the bed
with an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.
Wright auction, Chicago.
As a side note, the bed from Villa Fornasetti was sold was sold at Wright for $21,900, but it appears that the chairs did not sell.
The son's bedroom at Villa Fornasetti.
Photo by Robert Emmett Bright.
Barnaba's bedroom featured a pair of bedsteads painted by Fornasetti and his cylinder lamp with Trajan's column motif.

A bathroom at Villa Fornasetti.
Photo by Robert Emmett Bright.
A bathroom is tiled with in designs from Fornasetti's "Soli e Lune" series of 1953.  Another bathroom had white walls but featured plumbing fixtures, including the toilet and bidet, decorated with sprays of flowers in Fornasetti's design.

In a photo from the catalog for the December 6, 2005 auction,
the lavatory and other fixtures were porcelain with a
hand-colored lithographic transfer.
Wright auction, Chicago.
After Piero Fornasetti's death, his son Barnaba took over the business with his mother serving as consultant.  Some items designed by Piero Fornasetti are still being produced in limited editions, joining earlier products found in antique shops and auctions that still enjoy favor from collectors.

Piero Fornasetti in a photo from the late 1970s.
Image provided by Barnaba Fornesetti for
Architectural Digest.
The flagship Fornasetti store is in Milan, but new products are also sold in retail shops around the world.
The exterior of the Fornasetti shop in Milan.
Photo from the Fornasetti website.
All the Robert Emmett Bright photos date from 1989 and were published in the January, 1990, issue of Architectural Digest magazine.  There are two books about Fornasetti currently in print;  click on the title for more information or to order at a discount from the published price: FORNASETTI: DESIGNER OF DREAMS and FORNASETTI: THE COMPLETE UNIVERSE.

14 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Divine, a delightful combination of whimsy and elegance.

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  2. What a pleasure to see Fornasetti's Lake Como Villa. His dining room has to be my favorite. The patience his son had to glue all those shells to the wall, very clever. Thank you for the glimpse into Piero's genius. Have a wonderful week ahead & a happy Thanksgiving.
    Cheers,
    Deb

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, D.T. I love shell decorations, too.

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  3. I remember this sale well...I have a circa 1955 obelisk lamp printed with a porphyry background set with the Roman cameos. The back is milk white Perspex and of course a small fluorescent bulb within...was a hardship to find the ballast to keep all intact but miracles do happen. I do love it's glow in the entrance area...lovely to refresh my memory seeing his pair on the mantle.

    Quite the pieces...even selling the sink and all! Why? Would have been sold with the home, but perhaps the new owners if there were any, we're going to remodel or tear down sadly the interior of a Master! I just bought the new candle in porcelain inset with Lina Cavalieri...the famed muse of Fornasetti who was formerly married to Robert Winthrop Chanler.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. T.S., I know I would love your obelisk lamp. I suppose it was thought that the bathroom fittings were more valuable to a collector rather than adding value to the house; they were estimated at $25,000 to $35,000, but apparently did not sell. Thank you for commenting.

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  4. Really what a great mind.His living room is beautiful.

    By
    Aldrich Mendal
    Florida villas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love almost everything Fornasetti. Thank you for commenting, Aldrich.

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  5. Fornasetti-broke all of the "rules" but remained true to neo-classical ideals. I would love one of his cabinets, but the price point seems to increase monthly. Thanks.
    Mary

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    Replies
    1. Mary, even the pieces for Bonwit-Teller and Neiman Marcus were relatively pricey in their day. It does seem like prices are only increasing, doesn't it?

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  6. How coincidental that I just finished a post today that included a small reference to Lake Como. I am a huge fan of Fornasetti, but only posess a small dish of the winking muse La Cavalieri. I could accommodate many more pieces, but the danger would be that it would become too much of an homage; or worse a museum!

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    Replies
    1. Columnist, there are worse things than a friend with a villa on Lake Como (I always enjoy your posts) and an apartment that looks like a Fornasetti museum! Thank you for commenting.

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  7. Nice post. Really like the Green Room -- do you happen to know the name of a similar color?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I usually custom mix colors. But a very good line of pre-mixed paint is Donald Kaufman Color. Donald & Taffy have a wonderful green they call DKC-23.

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