Fashion history, style icon

Mariano Fortuny

I know I’ve posted on this guy before. But I was so young and unexperienced at then and now as Natalia wore his delfos to the Met Ball I felt forced to do a tiny history lesson on him again. After all he is one of my favorites and as I just studied him for school’s essay it felt like a destiny.

Mariano Fortuny is remembered as a renaissance man, for his versatile mosaic of talents, but it is the specific category of his textiles and garments that guarantees his immortality. Born in 1871, in Granada, Spain and he was christened with both of his parents names: Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo. His father, Mariano Fortuny y Marsal, was internationally known painter, sometimes referred to as the Spanish Meissonier. Also his mother’s family included several painters.

Mariano Fortuny, in fact, inherited more than his family’s art-making skills. Like his father, he experimented in mediums besides painting, drawning and printmaking. He was well versed in physics and chemistry; and in the first three decades of the twentieth century, Fortuny would work on designs as varied as lighting devices and work tables and a reflective, collapsible theatre dome.
1892 was a crucial year for Fortuny. The young man then made a pilgrimege to Bayreuth to the theatre founded by Wagner for the performances of his work. Fortuny was and would always remain mesmerized by Wagner’s works; and his stay in Beyreuth cemented his conviction that, in its union of technology and the arts, opera was the perfect art form.

Fortuny made his first garment in 1906, it was long, sheer silk rectangle, called a Knossos scarf, was printed with antique motifs and worn wrapped around the dancers in a number of ways. To the making of these textiles, Fortuny brought the methods learned in his other artistic endeavours. As for his method of pleating, it continues to be subject of much discussion. Despite the fact that the patent filed for Fortuny shows diagrams, experts disagree on many details. What is known is that the pleats were formed by hand -propably when the fabric was damp -held in place with stitches, and set with heat. While subsequent technology has been able to accomplish Fortunyesque pleating on man-made fabrics, few attemps have come close to the magic of a real Fortuny. But the mystery is still unknown.

It is interesting to note that although Fortuny had an inveterately curious mind, he remained immune throughout his life to the intricate problems of construction. Everything he made was flat, like the clothning of the past, achieving from only when put on the body. His dresses and robes slipped over the head or onto the shoulders, fastening with a drawstring or tie. Clearly his main interests were color and the preparation of the actual fabric, which he used as a ground, like a canvas, painting picture of light. His actual decorative patterns were also flat, a contrast of light and dark; their complexity and depth is due to the layers of tints applied to the gound.

I hope I didn’t repeat myself. To find out about the great Delphos, read the earlier post.


Is it just me or are the last two weeks of school the hardest?


16 thoughts on “Mariano Fortuny

  1. Whoa, thanks for the history lesson! I actually wasn’t at all familiar with Fortuny’s story, but I loved this dress on Natalia. I heard later on in the night it got ruined though…so sad.

  2. I’ve been in the “Costume Museum” in Madrid and they have some dresses by Fortuny, it’s amazing, he’s one of the few greatest Spanish designers. Great post!

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