Celebrated by his contemporaries as "The Magician of Venice", Mariano Fortuny was perhaps the last Renaissance man in the truest meaning of the term. Though trained as a painter, Fortuny was an accomplished and innovative stage-set designer, architect, inventor, couturier, and lighting technician. Fortuny was born on this day 141 years ago. The Delphos gown he designed in 1907 continues to shape women's fashion, and the textiles company he founded is still going strong.
The Fortuny Lamp, designed in 1907.
Born in the ancient Spanish city of Granada to an artistic family (both of his parents were highly-regarded painters), Fortuny was raised first in Paris then Venice, where he spent most of his life. Fortuny is now most remembered for his dress designs, which were fabricated from an innovative pleated silk, produced by machines designed and patented by Fortuny, and is the forerunner to Issey Miyake's efforts. Fortuny dress, circa 1930. Included in the permanent collection at The Met. Gift of Clare Fahnestock Moorehead
Fortuny also patented numerous stage and lighting innovations, culminating with the Fortuny cyclorama dome, which could easily change stage lighting from a bright sky to a faint dusk. The reflector lamp, popularly known as the Fortuny Lamp, works on the same principle as his stage dome, and clearly demonstrates Fortuny's philosophy that "it is not the quantity, but the quality of light, that makes things visible…"