The show covers sixty previously-unpublished photographs taken by Mariano Fortuny and his wife, Henriette, during their long visit to Egypt in January-March 1938.
Appropriately described as forming a ‘photographic notebook’, they offer an insight into the daily life and tastes of the great and eclectic artist. Everything is here: tender portraits of the artist together with his wife; his passion for the Orient; the influence of his father’s paintings; his feel for the marvellous setting provided by monuments and landscape; even details of clothing and archaic utensils. In some way typical of the artist himself, the photographs are a powerful echo of an era and a taste that are known to us from innumerable films, those many images of the 1930s and 40s that helped the European public to know – and love – the Middle East.
Amongst the hundreds of extant pictures, those in the show were deliberately chosen as exemplifying the expressive power of Fortuny’s photography. They are divided into various thematic groups: Fortuny ands his wife; Monuments; Views and Landscapes; the River Nile; Different Peoples; Marketplaces and Villages.
The actual printing of the pictures was a particularly important part of the event. It was carried out at Palazzo Fortuny by the Venetian photographer Giorgio Molinari, who – in collaboration with others – had already in the 1980s worked on the restoration of the over one thousand photographs collected by Fortuny, and then curated an exhibition of the results.
For the present show, Molinari worked from the original negatives, all in the average professional formats of 24×36, 4.5×6 and 6×9 cms. From this starting-point, he could work to render the expressive potential of the original, taking as his points of reference the actual prints in the Fortuny albums (with their own individual intonations of colour) and the composition of the Middle Eastern paintings that the artist was producing in these years.