1/20/2009

Fortuny Lamps




While reading through my decoration magazines -from time to time- I saw lights, which looked somehow very different.
These were silky hanging lamps as accents above dinning tables and in bedrooms. They looked butterfly-light weighted under the ceiling, like a modern interpretation of Chinese lanterns and in the description it was simple written: Fortuny lamp.
I wanted to know more about these lights, about their creator and some clicks in the 'www' later, I found a name: Mariono Fortuny y Madraza.
Mariono Fortuny was born in 1871 in Granada, Spain and died 1949 in Venice, Italy. He had an artistic family background, his father was a painter, his mother came from a painters family and so it wasn't surprising, that Fortuny by himself showed talent in many artistic fields from a young age on.
After the death of his father, the family moved to France and Fortuny got a profound education as a painter from his Grandfather Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz and many other artists of this time.
In 1889, the family moved further to Venice in the 'Palazzo Martinengo' and Fortuny got inspired by the collection of silk and velvet his mother got from varies places of the Orient, Venice and Gent and he was curious about the coloring process and the depth of the color in the fabric.
Out of this inspiration, he started creating fashion with silk fabric, like the famous 'Delphos gown' or the 'Knossos Shawl', which were inspired by the ancient Greek world. The 'celebrities' of his time loved his very modern creations and were wearing his gowns (like for example Sarah Bernhardt, Gloria Vanderbilt or Peggy Guggenheim.) But just being a fashion designer, could have never been enough for Fortuny, so he was also working as a painter, engraver, architect and interior designer, set designer, lighting technician and inventor. He applied for 50 different patents during his lifetime, the most influential invention, was probably the dimmer switch for lights.
Many people believe, that he was born some centuries too late, because his wide spread interests and enthusiasm were fitting very well into the Renaissance with artists like Leonardo da Vinci, or even later J.W. Goethe, who were also known as 'all round-talents'...

Fortuny was very fascinated about the theater, too. He created costumes and designed scenes and while doing so, he got introduced to the lighting system in theaters, which was a bit outdated in his opinion. He developed it further and in 1901, he patented an indirect theatrical lighting system. As one of the first designers, he made use of the electric opportunities and created an artificial light, which quantity can be controlled by moving the source. Due to this, it was possible to achieve different degrees of dimness or brightness, like a bright sky or a cloudy day, as well as many different colors for dramatic effects in theatrical productions.

Out of these experiences he decided to create lamps for the 'private' use, also. His first lamp design followed the principles: The 'Fortuny Moda' lamp from 1903 is reflecting a diffuse light on a concave surface. The design was abstract and industrial, like a photographers light and much ahead to other designs of this time.

Later (we finally reached this point ;-), he developed the same technique further while working on his famous silk lamps. At this time, he took all his knowledge from the technical side as well as the fashion designer world together and got also inspirited from Arabic motifs and Chinese silk lanterns to create these silky shining lights, which are known and loved until today...

Fortuny was well-known and celebrated during his life, a 'Magician of Venice' and a man of mysteries and secrets. A lot of the production knowledge of the lamps got lost, because he never revealed it to others, before he got an unexpected heart attack and died in his home in 1949.

But, the story of his legendary lamps wasn't over. Lino Lando was 17 years old, when he visited the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice the first time, which was already converted into the 'Fortuny Museum'. It was a sad place to see, the once beautiful silk lamps were nearly destroyed over the ages, the color of the gowns gone. But Lino Lando started loving this work and after some research, he founded his company “Venetia Studium” in 1984.
While trying to re-find the secrets of the color and the production of the lamps he traveled on same routes like Fortuny did to Asia and other places, trying to find the same inspiration, he tried and tried again until he made products which met his requirements. His first lamps followed the designs of Fortuny, strictly, but later Lando developed own designs also.
Nowadays Lino Landos son Matteo is responsible for the selling and marketing at Venetia Studium, so that Lando can concentrate himself on his life time passion, the production of the silk Fortuny lamps.
So, while trying to find out about the lamps I liked while reading in the magazines, I found two interesting stories, the one about a celebrated artist and the other about a very sucessful company, and I saw, that the function of these lamps is at least as interesting as their design ....and like gleaming kites, they are sending their unique diffuse light, to creating fairy tale ambiences... really magical....

If you want to find out more about these lamps or if you just want to calculate roughly about how long you would have to save money to buy one, just click on the link below...
www.venetiastudium.com



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