Anyone for a bit of Quirk ?
No, I’m not talking about the delightful Pauline Quirke of Birds of a Feather fame (by the way, I once sat next to Lesley Joseph’s chauffeur on a plane as I was on my way to do some work in Portugal, and he said that the whole cast are just as lovely off set as they are on it – but I digress). I’m referring to the new Fornasetti collection that Cole and Son have just launched.
Piero Fornasetti was an Italian painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver. Born in 1913, he lived most of his life in Milan, attending the Brera Art Academy from 1930-32 when he was expelled for insubordination. Well, guess who had the last laugh! Piero rose to be celebrated as one of the most creative and original talents of the 20th century.
Founded in Milan in the fifties, the Atelier is currently led by the visionary Barnaba Fornasetti, guardian of the legacy of his father Piero. Today, Fornasetti is an Italian luxury design atelier internationally renowned for its decorated furniture and home accessories. Humour, nostalgia, metaphors and allusions define its fully-fledged visual language, dreamlike, colourful and full of irony. Each Fornasetti object is unique and different, a piece of art, entrusted with a character that lies between design and art.
The new Fornasetti collection from Cole and Son, the third collaboration between these two giants of the design world, encapsulates this ethos perfectly. It’s quirky, amusing, attention-grabbing and simply splendid. Featuring a range of iconic motifs from fantastical flying machines and architectural elements to hidden keys and mischievous monkeys, the collection of 12 timeless designs capture the wit and originality of Fornasetti’s unique artworks in a range of both new and much-loved colour palettes. I had intended to enlarge upon only a couple of my favourite designs, but I’m finding it hard to restrict myself, as they’re all worthy of mention in their own way. Ah well, here goes:
Frutto Proibito gloriously combines different archival Fornasetti motifs from the 1940s and 50s. Mischievous monkeys, originally conceptualised for the Milanese patisserie, Dulciora, sit amongst sprawling pomegranate tree branches, taken from a striking fabric print. The playful composition of flora and fauna is quintessentially Fornasetti, mixing lifelike etchings with decadent, bold prints.
Created from an atmospheric etching of clouds, the subtle line work and delicate detail render Nuvole one of Fornasetti’s most magnificent and beloved designs. With its billowing clouds rolling across a romantic sky, Cole & Son has updated this arresting study with a unique ombré (a shading technique), encompassing the colour and light of an ever-changing sky. Now entitled Nuvole al Tramonto, it is available in two evocative colourways - Dusk and Dawn.
The much-loved Chiavi Segrete combines two influential Fornasetti motifs: mystical, dense leaves concealing golden, antique keys. This fanciful design has a magical quality, drawing the eye through and around the leaves to discover each of the ‘secret keys’ hidden within. Warm gold and sage tones comprise the subtly lustred Gilver and Gold, whist Olive creates a soft, true-to-life tone of spring undergrowth, with a seasonal twist in Autumnal Leaves’ deep rouge red and bronze hues.
Fish appear as motifs in some of Piero Fornasetti’s earliest work, such as luxurious silk scarves, trays and decorative porcelain. The whimsical composition and scale of Acquario creates a unique and striking wallcovering, whilst the colour palettes retain a Fornasetti classicism in tones of Viridian, Seafoam, and Soot.
Originally conceptualised in the late 1940s for the entrance hall of Piero Fornasetti’s Milan residence, Mediterranea is a sprawling cityscape of roofs, domes, and windows. Each detailed element of the scene is brought to life through radiant Metallic highlights and bold line work, with striking ground hues of White and Charcoal.
I’ve tried to contain my exuberance, but I simply have to mention my all-time favourite Fornasetti wallpaper. Filled with characterful New World charm, the wondrous fabled ‘flying machines’ of Macchine Voltanti evoke childhood fantasy and adventure. You really can explore the outer limits of your imagination by getting lost in the enveloping skyscape filled with man, machine and ethereal creatures in palettes of Stone, Rouge and Blue, and Slate Blue and Gilver.
I remember a few years ago our beloved editor telling me that if I didn’t waffle on so much, and kept the article concise, there’d be more room for the images of whatever it was I was banging on about. She didn’t exactly say that of course, but I’m pretty sure that’s what she meant.
Well, point taken; and anyway these particular images speak in tones far more eloquent than my musings.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - July 2018