Designed by Piero Fornasetti was a designer in the broadest sense of the word. He was not just an artist, but also a painter, printer and decorator – a true ‘style creator’, as architect Andrea Branzi described him in 2010. Fornasetti’s most famous series of works is the ‘Tema e Variazioni’ (Themes and Variations) collection, (1950-1988), also commonly known as the ‘face plates’.
Inspiration The plates feature an endlessly evolving series of images of one woman’s face: the 19th-century Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri. Fornasetti had discovered a sketch of his muse-to-be in an old newspaper. ‘What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman? I don’t know. I began to make them and I never stopped.’ Whatever it was that first sparked Fornasetti’s interest, it wasn’t Cavalieri’s celebrity status; perhaps it was her classical good looks, a gift for any artist. He saw her face as an archetype, not unlike an ancient Greek statue.
Why we love it Fornasetti created more than 11,000 pieces using Cavalieri’s likeness, with the collection attaining classic status as functional art for the home. Many of the designs – applied to chairs, trays, crockery and, more recently, candles – include witty, surreal touches that have added to their timeless appeal (fornasetti.com).
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