Mariano Fortuny Museum, Venice, Italy – Part Two.

In my last post I mentioned that I recently visited the Mariano Fortuny museum in Venice in April of this year. This museum had been on my museum bucket list for quite sometime and to say I was not disappointed was an understatement; the museum blew my mind and I would go back again and again.

My last post focused on the display for Fortuny’s famous ‘Delphos’ dresses whilst this blog post will concentrate on the fine art collection and other elements of the exhibits in the museum. The pictures above and below are of the absolutely beautiful fresco painted living room and I think waiting room for Fortuny’s clients. The frescos depict a fictional Roman-esque scene along a fictional Italian coastline and contain everything you would expect of Roman inspired frescoes from columns to wreaths to angels and statuettes there is an abundance of Roman inspired art.

The frescoed room is an ante-room of the main room which hosted Fortuny’s fashion atelier in the early twentieth century. In this main room there are displays of exquisite paintings, sculptures, objet d’art, and fine-art textiles. It is clear to the viewer that Fortuny was highly influenced by both the Greek and Roman world as well as the Oriental and Middle Eastern world with displays of Moroccan inspired textiles Greek and Roman statues.

The main bulk of the fine art collection are portraits and paintings of various sizes scattered across the walls. Many of the paintings depict Fortuny’s clients including this portrait above painted by Phillip de Laszlo the famous Hungarian society portrait painter of the early 20th century. This striking portrait of a self-assured, confident women resplendent in tall feathered hat and beautifully tailored black skirt suit has echoes of Gainsborough and Reynolds’ portraits from the late 18th century.

The juxtaposition of women in early twentieth century costume that would require corsets and layers of petticoats against the Delphos dresses is not lost on the viewer. Are the curatorial staff deliberately trying to provoke conversation around how changes in fashion can emancipate women? I think that perhaps they are doing this; the Delphos dress did not require a corset or petticoats and could be put on by the women themselves. In an era of layers of clothing and lady’s maids Fortuny’s dresses were legendary and heralded the change in fashion that would come after World War One.

Even if you are not aware of the changes in fashion before and after World War One the exhibition text within the museum space explains in a clear, concise, and easy to understand manner the role that Mariano Fortuny had in changing fashion in the twentieth century. The exhibition text is in white on a peach and orange background and is easy to read as the text font is not overly small. There are several panels in each room and section of the museum space that informs the viewer in both Italian and English what they are looking at.

Coupled with clear exhibition text the main exhibition space is roomy and well-led out; there is not one particular direction for visitors to follow but going from room to room the exhibition direction is clear to the viewer. The general layout and display of the artefacts is beautifully created with paintings hanging from tapestries and smaller paintings housed in cabinets against one wall. One gets a sense that the curatorial staff have treated Fortuny’s fine-art collection with as much care as his dress collection as much thought and time has been given over as how best to display both collections.

Whilst I mentioned in my previous post I was confused over how the Delphos dresses were chosen to be displayed this is not the case for other artefacts. As mentioned above care and attention has been given out to each area within the museum that explains Fortuny the artist or Fortuny the salesman and fashion designer.

Overall, barring the unusual method of displaying the Delphos dresses (maybe I am to used to static displays of costume on mannequins behind glass in the UK and Ireland!) if you are ever in Venice a visit to the Fortuny museum is a must. Not just for fashion lovers but for aficionado’s of fine-art and beautiful Venetian palazzo’s alike!


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