It’s a cold summer morning, it’s raining really hard…
I decide to enter Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, also called Palazzo Fortuny, in San Beneto area. I rarely have the chance to visit it: generally, our guests in Venice book guided tours of the Doges’ Palace, of St. Mark’s Basilica, of the islands… these are definitely fascinating places, full of Venetian history, culture, traditions.
Some guests might choose to visit less popular, and less crowded, sites, such as the Accademia Galleries, or Ca’ Rezzonico, or even the orphanages of the Pietà or of the Ospedaletto.
I rarely receive requests to visit Palazzo Fortuny… so today I have come here to enjoy this palazzo out of personal interest. I have sat down on one of the couches of the second floor, and I am surrounded by an incredible atmosphere. In the silence, I can hear the noise of the raindrops heavily hitting the roofs.
Mariano Fortuny… who was he?
Mariano Fortuny was an eclectic Spanish artist, and the house where he lived and worked in Venice is a jewel that really deserves a visit. He was born in Spain, his father was a painter and in his family would frequently host different artists in their house. His father died when Mariano was only three years old. His mother, Cecilia, raised her two little children alone, trying to give them the best education, and this was one of the reasons why she would frequently travel with them.
Quite soon Mariano proved to have a real artistic talent. When the family moved to Venice, he then started to attend lessons at the Academy of Fine Arts.
He was interested not only in painting: Mariano was a real eclectic genius, he loved theater with its scenery and spotlights, he enjoyed drawing costumes, he was fond of fabric, with which he would create any sort of objects… Mariano reached the highest peak in his creativity when he met his inspiring muse, Henriette, who was to become his wife.
Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei
Fortuny was able to purchase little by little the entire Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, where he decided to live and to establish his own workshop. After his death Henriette donated the palazzo with its works of art to the City of Venice.
Today on the second floor we can admire quite a few paintings by Mariano: portraits, self portraits, landscapes, sketches, his replicas of paintings by different Venetian masters.
However, I am not here for his paintings, although I understand how precious they are… what I would like to see today is the fabric he produced: so many different colors, such original designs, unique prints…
I literally adore his silk lamps, such as his unique shield lamps, or those called cesendello.
The clothes he designed are simply extraordinary, in particular his original silk Delphos: in my opinion, they are so refined, so exquisite! For the thin folds of the silk Mariano used a technique that he invented himself. Quite a few famous ladies of the first half of the 1900’s were clients of Mariano’s, like the actress Eleonora Duse, just to name one.
My favorite Delphos, obviously, is the red one, embellished by a transparent, impalpable overdress with an original golden print.
I have come to this museum also to admire some of the costumes that belonged to Mariano’s personal collection: marvelous Turkish, Albanian, Moroccan clothes of the 1700’s and 1800’s.
I never get tired of exploring every single corner of the second floor to find exceptional works of art… nonetheless I decide to climb to the third floor, where Fortuny had organized his workshop. His personal study is just fascinating, as well as all the wooden printing matrixes that he would use to print original patterns on the silk for his dresses.
And here as well there are more curtains, lamps, gowns…
As I head downstairs, I take a look out of the window: it is still raining, but the view on the roofs of San Beneto area is beautiful, despite the weather. I am not the only one, though, who is fond of the roofs of Venice: it seems like Mariano used to admire them as well, reproducing them in his paintings.
If I have been able to catch your interest and your curiosity, I will wait for you, together with all the BestVeniceGuides, for a guided tour of this palazzo, to tell you the story of its owner, a great genius of the early 1900’s.