Falling for Fornasetti
Piero Fornasetti, the
man who designed
a magical world,
saturated in image
and colour and filled
with whimsy and wit.
By Karyn Sparks
Fornasetti was a man of many talents: Milanese painter, sculptor, interior decorator, engraver of books and a creator of more than 11,000 products. In terms of variety of decoration, Fornasetti’s production of objects and furniture is one of the largest of the 20th century.
He’s celebrated as being among the most original creative talents of his time, and during his career he created a visual vocabulary that is instantly recognisable and unceasingly engaging.
A couple of years ago I bought a lovely Fornasetti magazine rack. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but just loved the kitsch ‘50s look of the piece. If I only knew then what I know now, I’d have kept hold of it. In 2010, the same metal magazine rack sold for a pulse-racing £1,500* at auction...well, you live and learn!
But how can you tell if it’s a vintage Fornasetti?
Forgeries and imitations have multiplied as a consequence of the increasing popularity for vintage Fornasetti. Re-editions and new objects (i.e. those produced after 1988, the date of Piero Fornasetti’s death) produced by Fornasetti are each marked with a date and number, as well as a trademark that is printed onto the decoration. The exception to that is porcelain, which can be easily dated by its printing technique: lithographic in the 1950s, or screen-printed today.
If you’ve suddenly fallen for Fornasetti and can’t wait to get hold of a piece, I suggest you buy it from a specialist dealer. Buy from unauthorised Internet sites with caution. However, if you spot what you ‘think’ might be a piece of Fornasetti at your local flea- market for a couple of pounds, what’s to lose? For goodness sake, snap it up!
Barnaba Fornasetti is the son of Piero. When he’s asked who collects Fornasetti, he replies: “It’s hard to define the Fornasettian target, there is no one typical collector. It might be an elderly man, who recalls that era with affection or perhaps a Museum Director, or an intellectual, a young student, an actor or rock star such as El- ton John.”
So, where can you find a vintage original Fornasetti?
Barnaba replies: “Every now and then pieces come up at auction houses such as Christie’s. A Fornasetti is also ‘eco-sustainable’, as it’s passed on to one’s children, or resold, but never thrown away! But they have become more and more difficult to find. Perhaps a specialist 20th century dealer or a fleamarket in Italy. A friend in New York found a piece in a junk shop in the Bronx!”
Do you offer a service to restore pieces?
“Restoration of these pieces should not be underestimated. Yes, we offer this kind of service. Since the necessary materials for restoration are difficult to procure, the only guarantee I can give is for the piece to be sent back to us to be restored in our Atelier in Milan.”
Taken from the very first issue of Vintagexplorer - Winter 2011
* value correct as of 2011