Fortuny stenciled velvet jacket, 1930s
"Faithfully antique but powerfully original..." Marcel Proust
In his brilliant, multifarious output, Fortuny often drew inspiration from antique textiles. He did not simply copy the old designs; he reinterpreted them to achieve an artistic ideal. His atelier was in Venice, which had been the center of the Renaissance textile trade with the Orient. The Venetian aesthetic tradition was thus a a fertile source of ideas about the textile masterpieces of the past.
Made from black silk velvet, the jacket has the opulent luxury that Fortuny so admired in Renaissance fabrics. (He called velvet "the aristocrat of stuffs.") He was the genius who figured out how to stencil velvet with gold patterns.
The regal jacket is hand stenciled with a Renaissance-style pattern in gold pigments. As in all Fortuny stenciled textiles, the layering of pigments in the stenciling process produces the subtle shading found in Renaissance frescoes.
"Fortuny used a thin, supple silk velvet...treated...with a succession of dyes, stippling the tints by hand to achieve a patina that improved on that of antique textiles. Fortuny then applied the gold....to a ground prepared with the whites of specially aged eggs from China....Because the stenciled color is deep in the pile of the velvet, the velvets have a slightly crusty texture" (Couture by Caroline Milbank).
The short boxy style is meant to be worn open without closures. It features wide sleeves, a stand-up shawl collar, and thin shoulder pads. It is lined with Fortuny's signature pale peach tan silk faille. The circular Fortuny label is at the center-back, below the neckline.
The stenciled jacket was originally meant to be worn over a Delphos or Peplos tea gown for the sake of modesty. At first, these sleek silk gowns were often worn with nothing underneath when en desabillé or for private entertaining in the home.
As one of the top dealers in Fortuny garments over the last 14 years, I can state that a Fortuny stenciled velvet outer garment is even more rare than the Delphos gown. This one came directly from a Maryland estate and has never been on the market.
Mariano Fortuny created some of the most remarkable fabrics and dresses of the last century. Although known today primarily as a dress and fabric designer, he was also a painter, sculptor, photographer, set designer, theater director, and architect. In the field of design, he personified the Renaissance man who could do it all. Henri de Régnier wrote in 1907:
A Venetian at heart, Fortuny loves Venice and knows all the arts intimately. Like the Renaissance masters...he has revived the dyeing and adorning processes of the old weavers and decorators, creating very beautiful materials...which rival those produced by the craftsmen of the past.
In the graphic arts, Fortuny's love and obsession was color in all its intricate subtlety. He made himself an expert in the manufacture, mixing, and application to textiles of dyes (especially from natural sources). There has never been a greater creator of color masterpieces in textile than Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo. He rightly occupies a place of honor in the pantheon of great design.
The label reads Mariano Fortuny/Venise.
The condition is almost excellent. There are three tiny (1/8") holes on the front lining. The fabric is strong and not in danger of deteriorating. I prefer to leave the original lining in place in order to maintain the design integrity of this precious collectible.
It measures: 50" bust, 60" hem circumference, 22" sleeve length, and 25" from shoulder to hem.