The collections within the museum comprise an extensive number of pieces and materials which reflect the various fields investigated in the artist’s work. These are organised under certain specific headings: painting, light, photography, fabrics and clothes design.
Painting. The collection contains some 150 paintings by Mariano Fortuny, which illustrate the various phases in this aspect of his career as an artist.The Wagnerian period, up until 1899, holds a central place. This meeting and blissful balance of painting and theatre mark an intimate understanding of the dream and myth that thrilled Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. Equally fascinating, for other reasons, are the portraits, in which the family, and particularly his wife Henriette, play a fundamental role: here inspiration becomes an intimate chronicle in the context of stylistic inheritance from his maternal relations: Federico de Madrazo, his grandfather; his uncles Raymundo and Ricardo; his friend Boldini. 1888: the Study of the Female Nude made when he was just seventeen years old is the first pictorial attempt known by the young Mariano. This theme, which he continued referring back to (the latest of these exhibited here, Reclining Female Nude, is from 1946), became the palimpsest of techniques and styles interwoven even through his photographic work. The two large still lifes seem to be the fruit of a crossover between Fortuny’s education and his original compositional ability.
Light. The main driving force and real heart of Fortuny’s work is light: perfectly identified with the creation of the celebrated theatre dome. The same light is found in his assiduous chromatic studies, in his dying of textiles, his shot fabrics and, consequently, in many objects designed for furnishing. A notable example is the large ivory, silk gauze curtain, printed in black with oriental motifs, all played out on the transparency of the silky material and on the graphic contrast of the design which increases and expands light throughout the entire space. The extraordinary lamps and chandeliers, all in the same stamped and painted material, follow the same line of study. These almost immaterial objects, derived from various subjects and references, such as the Saracen shield, with exotic names (Sherazade), or inspired by the celestial world (Saturn), evoke atmosphere and splendour in rooms where light and design constitute an inseparable singularity. With their solid, metal construction and clean lines, the Fortuny diffusor lamps are absolutely practical and functional for the specific lighting of various types of room, works of art and architecture, while still representing the best that has been conceived for the use of diffuse and indirect light.
Photography. The core of photographs shown here are taken from either the collection left by Mariano Fortuny or the the rich collection of the Musei Civici di Venezia, both are which are now undergoing full re-organisation within the Fortuny Museum itself. The entire collection comprises works from 1850 to the Second World War, with a rich variety of styles, techniques and historic images.
Fabrics. The Fortuny Museum’s collection of clothes, fabrics, trial prints, materials and ornamental clothes of one type or another make up a rich sample of Fortuny’s extraordinary work in the field of fabrics and fashion design, in which the artist took old ornamental motifs and reinterpreted them in a very “modern” decorative style. The fabrics range from the simple diagonal-striped cotton cloth to velvets of silk and cotton (the perfect material for the famous polychrome printing, which was used mainly for furnishing fabrics). The satin, the taffeta, the silk gauze and the velvets constitute the material for the Delphos, the surcoats, the sumptuous cloaks and capes, all imbued with infinite chromatic blendings and historical references. Fortuny drew decorative models and designs from precious Renaissance velvets and from fabrics from distant, exotic cultures which, once printed, imitated and reinvented the original handicraft, thanks to a highly personal system of printing with inimitable material and three dimensional results.