Digging the archive #1

Browsing Domus digital archives, with over a thousand publications that cross a century, you can discover infinite stories. Don’t miss our first episode with Piero Fornasetti. Free online from 24 November to 4 December.

Archivio Fornasetti
Our digital archive collects all Domus issues from 1928 until today: the faces, characters and ideas emerge of maestri who have made history in the culture of design, with objects and works of architecture that have become contemporary icons. With Piero Fornasetti we launch Digging from the archive , a new series of articles that will let you have a look inside this powerful world. Available for free online, for ten days. 
Black and white print recoloured by hand with Marameo tray (Casali-Domus)
Black and white print recoloured by hand with Marameo tray (Casali-Domus)

“Domus has been an anthology of Fornasetti”: with these words Gio Ponti writes about the inexhaustible creativity of Piero Fornasetti. Right from the 1950s, Domus published images of fabrics, furniture, screens and plates by Piero, without concealing an amused and admired pleasure in describing these original and ironic works of art.

 

In Domus 246 in 1950, in relation to a new collection of printed handkerchiefs the artisan work of Fornasetti is compared to that of a composer who draws inspiration for his patterns from folk art and 19th century graphics, creating a peculiar way of expressing himself that is both brilliant and playful.

Published in 1950, this series of Fornasetti scarves reconfirmed the success achieved with the 1935 collection (Domus 246)
Published in 1950, this series of Fornasetti scarves reconfirmed the success achieved with the 1935 collection (Domus 246). Piero’s work is “Graphic art performed on a fabric square” and his works are compared to “graphic sonnets”; like a musician who draws on folk tradition to compose his motifs. Fornasetti had a “particular flair” and a unique sensitivity.
Domus continued to keep an eye on Piero’s work, that became known all over the world: in 1955, the production of the famous plates “variations on the same face” (Domus 313, 1955) highlights the advanced artisan technique that distinguishes his products but also the intrinsic, always-present playful aspect of his art.

 

Fornasetti’s art is sharply illustrated in 1956: the game of print is a dangerous game and Piero is the acrobat of composition. His objects are not only useful but provoke a sense of play and continual decomposition: the beautiful photographs of Fornasettis make you want to make Fornasettis! Below is the complete text from “eighteen Fornasettis” published in Domus 321 in 1956 by the editorial team.

 

Photographs of Fornasetti. The temptation arises to use the photographs of his objects to make more ‘Fornasetti’ objects, to arrange them on the page in one of Fornasetti’s many games (repetition, alternate repetition, upright, upside down, white, black, interval, surprise etc) or to make some kind of allegorical game of solitaires with photos of Fornasetti as cards. Perhaps even Fornasetti, decorating at his home his show rooms full of Fornasetti must have been taken up by this obsession of composing Fornasettis from Fornasettis. The printing game is a dangerous one, like a never ending game of mirrors. Going around these rooms filled with ‘fornasettis’ one also has the impression just as strong of that of the acrobatic richness of images: each object is extremely well-finished, clean and polished neatly hung, aligned or placed in its own box, lined with cloth, placed in a second box, also printed. A precision that never ends and that amazes right from the start because we expect that in this country things that are pleasing and fantastic have to be at least unfinished, slightly imperfect, and with a hidden fault. But then we realise that for Fornasetti this final perfection is part of the same process that occurs in the invention and execution of images, the mechanism of ordering and multiplying of his imagination. Imitators of Fornasetti are a long way off. Fornasetti on the other hand is preparing some new surprises for them with a new form of print closer to painting than to drawing that he is already working on.

Black and white print recoloured by hand with paper tray and umbrella stand in masonite lacquered and decorated and tray in aluminium lacquered and decorated
Black and white print recoloured by hand with paper tray and umbrella stand in masonite lacquered and decorated and tray in aluminium lacquered and decorated
Ponti’s judgement is made even more explicit at the end of the 1950s when with the collection Fragments humains Fornasetti plays with the human body in an infinite series of combinations: on this occasion Ponti is proud to sign his piece about the artist who has “disintegrated” man and become the creator of a style that is much imitated but unsurpassable.
A composition from the series Fragments humains published in Domus 357 from 1959
A composition from the series Fragments humains published in Domus 357 from 1959
With the article entitled “Fornasetti disintegrates man and woman”, Ponti displays his open admiration for one he now considers a maestro (Domus 357, 1959). “Fornasetti is a maestro, his technical teaching has gained him followers – it couldn't be otherwise – but even apart from his technique he is a maestro – unsurpassed because he is unsurpassable – for the inexhaustibility of the motifs that he shapes with this technique, motifs that are incessantly creative or stylistic retrievals that show exacting taste, with these human plates that create entertainment that delights in wandering things.

Online from 24 November to 4 December 2016

Digging the archive #1
Piero Fornasetti
Domus
 246, May 1950
Domus  313, December 1955
Domus 321, June 1956
Domus 357, August 1959


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