#2417 $3,500 Sold
Fortuny Uccelli pattern panel, 1920s-1930s
Mariano Fortuny started as a painter like his father. Perhaps overshadowed by the father's reputation , the son became intrigued by the father's large collection of antique fabrics. Mariano abandoned painting to become the greatest textile designer in history. Starting in 1899, he produced his celebrated textiles in the 15th-century Palazzo Orfei in Venice, now the Fortuny Museum.
The vogue for Fortuny's designs had spread from the cultured elite to the broader public just when Europe was feeling impoverished after WWI. Nevertheless, the expensive silk and velvet fabrics hand produced in his small workshop could not satisfy demand. In 1919 he faced two imperatives: the need to increase production and also to use less expensive fabrics. His solution was a new company, Società Anonima Fortuny.
After much experimentation, Fortuny settled on long-staple Egyptian cotton as the ground cloth for his new creations. Although factory output was considered mass production by Fortuny, it still required much manual labor to achieve his high standards.
This exceptional panel was used as a bed covering in a Connecticut estate. When it was stitched to the backing, the selvage edges stamped Fortuny were trimmed away to prevent puckered seams. (To look inside, I made a small opening in the seam allowance on the backing.) The well documented Uccelli pattern, based on a 17th century French design, can be found in the Fortuny literature.
Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, self-portrait painted shortly before his death.
The large panel consists of three widths of Fortuny fabric stitched together. The outside edges are finished with a stenciled Fortuny border pattern. The panel is backed with beige cotton. I like to think that Fortuny, who tried to emulate the layered look of antique frescoes, would be pleased to see how this panel has aged to perfection.
The dramatic revival of interest in Fortuny fabrics has been a major fashion trend in recent years. His magnificent fabrics were meant for wall hangings and furnishings. Although Fortuny stenciled patterns are still produced today, collectors of textile art appreciate the superior quality of the vintage pieces.
The three widths of fabric total over 8 yards, making this a great buy at about $435/yard. In our article on Vintage Clothing as an Investment, we discuss why collectibles have proven to be a great investment when inflationary forces emerge. Because of the dramatic, ongoing creation of money by the world's central banks in recent years, high end collectibles have now moved into the early stage of price mark-up/escalation in my view.
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, etcher, sculptor, photographer, lighting engineer, set designer, theater director, inventor, and architect. In the field of design, he personified the Renaissance man who could do it all.
The condition is almost excellent. The panel shows gentle wear and exquisite patina.
It measures: 83" wide by 100" long.