Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fortuny Final: Silk Velvet

Fortuny e Caramba

In the last of my Fortuny series I bring you my favorite, his silk velvet. Fortuny grew up around textiles as both his parents had shops and collected textiles and he was an avid collector himself in adulthood. So it wasn’t unusual for a man who was an artist to want to experiment with the old methods of dying on fabrics. As it turned out it was the theatre that really brought his love of fabrics alive.

Fortuny e Caramba

Fortuny was sketching and designing costumes for the theatre and his first try at designing wasn’t a great success mainly because the costumes were to heavy and hampered the performers movements. This led Fortuny to experiment with a lighter weight fabric such as silk and then velvet for both his home and dresses.

Mariano Fortuny: His Life and Work

Fortuny was not interested in fashion as we know it, had no desire to be a couturier but was an artist who just happened to create clothes. The clothes themselves came from his knowledge of Greek and Venetian clothes that he painted in his paintings. He loved free flowing styles and to be honest the time period of styles was changing to clothing that was lighter and freer in movement.

Paper Illusions by Isabelle de Borchgrave

He went on to patent a dress in a Greek free flowing style that was executed in pleated silk known as his Delphos. The Delphos dresses were kept very simple and in solid colors allowing Fortuny to reinterpret historical designs from the Renaissance and 16th century Venetian art onto simply cut velvet jackets, wraps, mantles and capes. The over pieces are what allowed Fortuny to bring in color and his favorite design motifs.

Fashion Memoir: Fortuny by Delphine Desveaux

All the dresses were produced in the studio at the Palazzo Orfei and were all made by hand, individually, as were all the materials that went into them. The pleated and printed silk, the velvets, the cords that were used to gather the different parts, everything except for the glass beads, the glass beads were ordered from the Murano glass factory.

Metropolitan Museum Collection

Persepolis pattern, which is a Persian design, named for the ancient city and still produced today.

Metropolitan Museum Collection

Moresco pattern in an early Moorish style and still produced today.

My pillows in my personal collection, the blue is Fortuny's Clamys design, the green is a 16th century design

The velvet Fortuny used was a very light silk velvet that he imported from France and came in its raw state of white or slightly creamy. The whole process from raw materials to the final result depended on Fortuny. He produced the dyes, the colors, the blocks or stencils and the machines. Gives a new appreciation into his world and work.

My image

The designs on his velvets were usually layered on and he never used chemical colors but produced his own natural colors. He imported all the different ingredients from all over the world and then experimented with the colors in his studio. Look at the rich background color, Fortuny produced and dyed the velvets before applying the design. This is what makes Fortuny’s dresses less of a garment and more of a work of art.

My image

You can see that his velvets have a very low pile and while Fortuny was dying and stenciling on the velvets they went through a water wash many times over. You can’t do that with today’s velvets without ruining the pile. Unlike the softness of today’s silk velvets Fortunys' velvets are rough to the touch.

My image

Fortuny labeled his velvets with silk faille labels that he made himself and are coveted today when purchasing his silk velvet and I feel very fortunate to have two labels. If you’re ever lucky enough to come across a fragment of Fortuny’s silk velvet be forewarned a small piece big enough for a single pillow can cost over a thousand dollars.

Fortuny e Caramba

While I know this post is about Fortuny’s silk velvets there’s one area I haven’t touched on in his work and that’s his silk appliqué work. Not many people chase after his appliqués mainly because he designed these for the theatre and not many examples still exist today. I thought I would show one amazing example for you to see and this piece was design using a medieval motif.

Stephen Shubel, House & Garden

I even managed to find one interior design picture where Stephen Shubel used a piece of Fortuny’s silk velvet on a chaise. The hanging light fixture is also Fortuny’s design showing how timeless his pieces are today.

So we have the theatre to thank for Fortuny getting into textiles and the silk velvets lead to him producing a more affordable line of fabrics like the cottons. The theatre is also responsible for him producing his line of lighting as well. My post gives only a brief explanation of his textile background and I hope if this has tantalized your interest you’ll pick up a copy of one of the many books out today and have a great read. Fortuny’s life is really one of a work of art.

I hope you all have a really enjoyable week with whatever opportunity it may bring you!



Splendid Sass said...

I can't wait to learn more. I am a fan of silk velvet and his work is outstanding. Thank you for sharing the history.

sharon santoni at my french country home said...

I just love the pictures of the pillows in your private collection Debra, the grey/green/blue mix is beautiful.
best wishes

The enchanted home said...

Hey Debra...this is so fascinating, the colors and hues of the velvets are just so gorgeous seems impossible to duplicate. What special treasures they are and lucky you to own some! The pictures of your private collection are just dreamy, some of my most favorite colors.....thanks for sharing this was a lot of fun to see!

Pura Vida said...

I am so loving learning about this amazing artist

michele said...

how cool that theatre led to such loveliness. i am feelin all majestic and elegant just viewing your images!


LaPouyette said...

So fascinating, Debra! I'm in love with all pieces!!!!!

Molto phantastico!!!


Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...


What an interesting post, I am fascinated by these velvets and the pillows in your private collection are my favorite. I love the design, it is so beautiful!

The costumes are fabulous! One is more beautiful than the next!

I hope you had a great week and are feeling a little rested after your long week last week.

Take care, Elizabeth

Sharon Lee Johnson said...

What an amazing man and what incredible works of art he produced and how lucky are you to have some in your possession! Have a wonderful week. x Sharon

Thoughts on Design said...

I have been transported to another world this morning! Beautiful post and fabrics!

Heather Robinson said...

Isn't it interesting how the soft and yet at the same time very rich colors speak to so many of us? Thank you for sharing your knowledge about this master designer Debra. And for the last photo too as I have always hoped to have a Fortuny lamp!

Stacey said...

WoW! Talk about the epitome of luxurious fabric! I would love to run my hands on a sample! Beautiful!! Happy Monday! XX

Taylor Greenwalt said...

Debra, Beautiful fabrics and your pillows are amazing. Very interesting post.

Leslie said...

Interesting Debra! I love the muted colors. So luxurious!

Victoria said...

This was a fascinating insight into Fortuny's work and its evolution. I wonder if Mary McFadden's Marii pleated fabric is an homage to Mariano? I have a pair of Fortuny designed hanging lamps and I treasure them. How fortunate you have to have some of his fabrics and labels.

Fortuny, Inc. said...

Love this post and the photos are great!

Maison de lin said...

Oooooh, al this beauty, I love al these beautiful colors. Its so sereen and luxurious at the same time.

Have a wonderful week my dear

Divine Theatre said...

I have always been as fascinated with Fortuny's life as I am with his creations.
Beautiful post, my friend!

Kisses to Dylan and Kitty!


Blooming Rose Musings said...

Your entire Fortuny series has been stunning. Thank you so much for sharing your vast knowledge of this true artist. The pieces you have shown are exquisite.
Have a wonderful week...Hmm,does that include a little Brimfield?
Thank you, Debra

Unknown said...

You are such a wealth of knowledge on the subject of Fortuny! Impressive!!!

I love how the heavy fabrics he started with redirected him to the silks that he would go so far with. A true lesson in "if at first you don't succeed...try, try again!".

And, the pillows that you own are beautiful works of art (and soft too I bet!).

I recall seeing the Fortuny lighting like the last photo at Sue Fisher King. That was my first introduction into this amazing man and his legacy.

Wishing you a truly wonderful week!
xoxo Elizabeth

Fashion-isha said...

Silk and velvet....just the sound of those two words together is luxury! Gorgeous photos!

Anonymous said...

You have such and eye for gorgeous fabrics. I love Stephen Shubel and especially those window treatments! xo

debra @ 5th and state said...

truly fascinating deb, my knowledge on fortuny is so limited but you have whet the appetite.
when i come over :-), want to see your labels!

Karena said...

Debra well I think you More than got it together; a fabulous post on Fortuny. This is making me desire another of your pillows...


Art by Karena

Barbara@HausDesign said...

Absolutely gorgeous! I just don't think it gets any better than Fortuny and I learned so much about him through your series - nicely done!

Woodside Park said...

Dear Debra,

Thank you for the comprehensive posts on Fortuny. I'm going to bookmark them for future reference, as I know very little about Fortuny. The silk velvets look incredible. They must be so luminous and rich, despite the rough texture.

I do love Fortuny cottons, which I am a little more educated about.

Cheers from DC,
Tone on Tone

Unknown said...

Wonderful info on Fortuny here and some beautiful images. Thanks!

designchic said...

What gorgeous fabrics, Debra...certainly the epitome of luxury!!

DM said...

Your posts are an answer to my prayers!! beautiful!! and so filled with new information!

Bohemian said...

Magnificent! I just bought a Silk Velvet Creation from an Artist/Stylist Friend of mine... I adore Exotic, Rich Fabrics... especially the Vintage ones. These Images are exquisite!

Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian


What a great primer for those of us who didn't know that much about Fortuny--the images are gorgeous. Lovely post!

I Dream Of said...

Debra, I've loved your Fortuny posts. It's been wonderful to learn more about the man behind these legendary fabrics and how they were created. I've long admired the Fotuny-designed lamps and the Delphos dresses and now I know why - the incredible combination of creativity, innovation and artisanship made for beautiful results!

Anonymous said...

LOVELY PICS:) I really like your blog and want to follow, do you have twitter or FB??

If you want some swedish decor inspiration, you can check out my blog:)
Have a great week.

LOVE Maria at

Completely Classic said...

Hi Debra - This is fascinating! I never knew so much about Fortuny. The pieces from your collection are absolutely beautiful!

A room with a view said...

This is an amazing post, Debra. I love the intricacy of the Moorish pattern- stunning!

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...


I wish you a happy Mothers day! Enjoy your weekend.

I was thinking of you when I saw the beautiful fabric/ textile that Little Auguryhad in her sale on one kings lane. Beautiful dress fabric from 1750, I could almost envision Madame du Barry.

Thank you for stopping buy this week, I hope you try one of the cinnamon recipies. They are all yummy.

Enjoy your weekend, Elizabeth

Splenderosa said...

Exquisite. This is the only word for this kind of work. Long ago I met a beautiful older woman who took me to her bedroom & closet, which was entirely covered, walls, drapery, all chairs, bed, everything in Fortuny fabrics. I nearly died right there.
Your pillows are beautifully sumptious, I wish I had them !!

Ioana-Carmen said...

Amazing blog! Would you like to follow each other? ;X

Decor de Provence said...

Wow Debra!!! Those images are stunning... and your pillows... no words!!! All I can say is someday... maybe. Thanks for always sharing your amazing knowledge and talents! Happy Mother's day to you!!!


Splendid Willow said...

Simply gorgeous. Talk about having found his own niche!

Educational and inspirational as always Ms. Debra. No need to pick up any books - I learn the best from the best - and yes that would be you!

Warm hugs to you.


Trish said...

I've been off-line for far to long...this is such a great overview of Fortuny! I've known several avid collectors..and have tried to stay dispassionate myself...out of self preservation! Sounds like a seriously expensive hobby!!! Your pillows...the labels...thrilling! Oh, how you must love your job!!! XO Trish

Style Maniac said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I'm familiar with Fortuny in decorating but have not seen dress examples like you've shown. That gold caftan! Has my name all over it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert when it comes to this. Didn't even know this was possible. Useful read, appreciate your posting this.

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