Known principally for his fantastic pleated silk dresses, Fortuny was also a painter, sculptor, set designer, photographer and scientist. One of his inventions was the Fortuny Dome, used in theatre performances to create the illusion of sky.
Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, or Don Mariano as he liked to be called, was born in 1871 in Granada, and moved to Venice in 1889. In the early 20th century he purchased the Palazzo Pesaro, a late Gothic palazzo which had originally been owned by the fabulously rich and influential Pesaro family. Fortuny spent the remainder of his life here being suspected of harbouring Fascist sympathies. Fortuny’s palace was ransacked by Partisans after the Second World War.
The house and the rest of its contents were given to the city by Don Mariano’s wife in 1956.
The large rooms and portego made a splendid and appropriate setting for the precious Fortuny fabrics. Woven with gold and silver threads, these were created by Fortuny’s reintroduction of Renaissance techniques and use of ancient dyes.
The collection also includes paintings by Fortuny, decorative panels, and a few of the finely-pleated clinging silk dresses regarded as a milestone in 20th century women’s fashion. As a scientist, Don Mariano left an intriguing series of electric lamps which he constructed to mirror the effect of sunlight.
Recently, all Fortuny collections have disappeared from the Palace, together with the magical and romantic atmosphere of the rooms, to leave space for extemporaneous exhibitions of various arts and crafts.