Palazzo Fortuny, built for Benedetto Pesaro from the midfifteenth century and already known as Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, is nowadays a massive building boasting two imposing facades, one overlooking the Ca’ Michiel canal and the larger one – among the most complex examples of Venetian Gothic – facing Campo San Beneto.
The architectural structure of the house fully reflects the Venetian tradition and offers several solutions of significant value, like the two seven-light pointed arch windows on the first and second floor, and the unusual length of the rooms that span the entire width of the building from facade to facade.
The interiors display particularly refined and relevant architectural features, such as the wooden architraves and sculptured marble pillars of the first floor. Erected on a previous building constructed with the characteristics of a commercial fondaco, the typical Venetian trading house and warehouse, it was later enlarged with the addition of the rooms and storerooms along the axis that connects the canal-side entrance to the landward entrance, the portego. It was in a state of total neglect and decay when in 1898, attracted by its architectural beauty, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo took over the huge room located in the attic of the building, establishing his own studio in the loft. Here he worked on his renowed artistic experiments and stage set designs.
Over the years, Fortuny acquired the other parts of the property, and began to gradually restore the building, bringing balance and proportion back to the house.
Fortuny eventually chose Palazzo Pesaro Orfei as his permanent home and in 1907, together with his wife and muse Henriette Nigrin, he set up a small workshop of fabric printing. In a few years, two entire floors of the building were occupied by his extraordinary atelier for the creation of distinctive dresses and silk and velvet printed fabrics. In 1956, after Fortuny’s death (1949), the building was donated to the City of Venice to be “perpetually used as a center of culture in relation to the arts.”
The city administration came into full possession of the building in 1965, at Henriette’s death and, in 1975, the doors of this unique house-cum-museum were opened to the public. Over the years, the Palazzo Fortuny Museum has always been considered as a centre set for exhibitions focused on visual arts, keeping, though, the typical features of Mariano Fortuny’s atelier.
The space, structured like the wings of a theatre stage, houses a rich collection of works of art demonstrating Mariano’s different fields of investigation and experimentation: painting, photography, drawing, engraving, sculpture, technical and furnishing lamps, theatre models, printed fabrics and clothes, from the famous Delphos to theatre costumes. The source of inspiration of this eclectic artist can be found even today in his extraordinary private library, on the second floor, rich with furnishings, objects of art and rareart and technique volumes. Nowadays, Palazzo Fortuny still testifies Mariano’s brilliant capability of re-elaborating, experimenting and renovating, together with his impact on the international artistic and intellectual scene between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century