Mariano Fortuny (Y Madrazo) - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

Spanish designer

Born: Granada, Spain, 1871. Family: Married Henriette Negrin, 1918. Career: Produced Knossos printed scarves from 1906; produced Delphos gowns, 1907-52; Delphos robe patented, 1909; method for pleating and undulating fabric patented, 1909; methods for printing fabrics patented, 1909, 1910; 18 other patents received, 1901-33; opened showroom for sale of textiles and clothing, Venice, 1909; established Societá Anonima Fortuny, factory for printed textiles, 1919; opened shops in Paris and Milan, 1920; also an inventor, stage designer, painter, and photographer. Exhibitions: Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo [drawings and paintings], Galeria Dedalo, Milan, 1935, Galerie Hector Brame, Paris, 1934; Exposition Fortuny y Marsal y Fortuny y Madrazo [etchings], Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, 1952; A Remembrance of Mariano Fortuny, Los Angeles County Museum, 1967-68; Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949), Musée Historique des Tissus, Lyons, and Brighton Museum, 1980, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1981, and Art Institute of Chicago, 1982; Chicago International Antiques Show (featuring Fortuny gowns from the Martin Kamer Ltd. collection of New York), 1988. Died: 2 May 1949, in Venice.




Éclairage scénique: Systéme Fortuny, Paris, 1904.

Fortuny 1838-1874, Bologna, 1933.



Deschodt, Anne Marie, Mariano Fortuny: Un magicien de Venise, Paris, 1979.

Brighton Museum, Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) [exhibition catalogue], Brighton, 1980.

de Osma, Guillermo, Mariano Fortuny: His Life and Work, London,1980, 1994.

Fashion Institute of Technology, Fortuny [exhibition catalogue],New York, 1981.

Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, Couture: The Great Designers, NewYork, 1985.

Mint Museum of Art, Fortuny: Robed in Riches, [exhibition catalogue], Charlotte, N.C., 1992.

Skrebneski, Victor, and Laura Jacobs, The Art of Haute Couture, NewYork, 1995.

Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York,1996.

Desveaux, Delphine, Mariano Fortuny, 1871-1949, London, 1998.

Deschodt, Anne Marie, and Doretta Davanzo Poli, Fortuny, NewYork, 2001.


"The Beauty of Fortuny is Brought to America," in Vogue, 15 May 1923.

"Mariano Fortuny," in La renaissance de l'art Français et des industries de luxe, June 1924.

Malaguzzi Valeri, Francesco, "Le stoffe Fortuny," in Cronache d'arte, Volume 4, 1925.

"Fortuny of Venice," in the Nomad, April 1928.

de Cardona, Maria, "Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo," in Arte Español, Spring 1950.

Sheppard, Eugenia, "The Fortuny Dress," in the New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1962.

Hale, Sheila, "Fragments from the Fortuny Rainbow," in the Daily Telegraph Magazine (London), 27 October 1972.

Quennell, J.M., "Precious Stuff: Fortuny," in Vogue (London), December 1972.

Minola de Gallotti, Mariana, "El Museo Fortuny de Venecia," in Goya, September/October 1975.

Deschodt, Anne Marie, "Seeking Your Fortuny," in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 23 July 1978.

Blasi, Bruno, "Con la firma di Fortuny," in Panorama (Italy), 22August 1978.

Abercrombie, Stanley, "Palazzo Fortuny: A Venetian Palace, Now the Museum of the Work of Master Textile Designer Mariano Fortuny," in Architectural Digest, October 1984.

"Fame and Fortuny at Navy Pier Show," in Chicago Tribune, 2October 1988.

Tosca, Marco, "Fortuny," in Vogue (Milan), July/August 1989.

Lydon, Mary, "Pli selon pli: Proust and Fortuny," in the Romantic Review, November 1990.

Collier, Peter, "Le Manteau de Fortuny," in French Studies, January 1991.

Farrell, Sarah, "In the Footsteps of Fortuny, Rich Venetian Fabrics," in the New York Times, 28 July 1991.

Smith, Roberta, "An Eye for Art to Dress a Room," in the New York Times, 18 August 2000.


Mariano Fortuny was an artistic genius with an insatiable curiosity; this led him to pursue a variety of disciplines, which evolved through an interesting series of interconnections. Always a painter, he turned to etching, sculpture, photography, lighting design, theatre direction, set design, architecture, and costume design, ultimately to be a creator of magnificent fabrics and clothing.

Through painting Fortuny learned the subtle uses of color that enabled him to produce unequalled silks and velvets from which he made exquisite gowns. Fortuny's work as a fabric and dress designer was determined by a combination of external and internal influences: externally by Modernism and the English Aesthetic movement, during the early part of the 1900s, as well as Greek and Venetian antiquity; internally by a love inherited from his father of everything Arabic and Asian. During all these creative experiences he maintained a keen artistic sense and the mind of an inventor.

Fashion, as we know it, did not interest Fortuny and he rejected commercial fashion and couture houses. First and foremost a painter who happened to create stage scenery and lighting effects, as well as clothes, Fortuny's initiation with fabrics and fashion was through costumes for the theatre designed in conjunction with his revolutionary lighting techniques. His first textile creations, known as the "Knossos scarves," were silk veils, printed with geometric motifs (inspired by Cycladic art) which were made in any number of variations until the 1930s. These scarves were, essentially, a type of clothing—rectangular pieces of cloth that could be wrapped, tied, and used in a variety of ways—always allowing for freedom of individual expression and movement. His sole interest was the woman herself and her personal attributes, to which he had no wish to add any ornamentation. These simple scarves allowed Fortuny to combine form and fabric as they adapted easily into every kind of shape, from jackets to skirts, and tunics.

Fortuny's most famous garment was the Delphos gown. It was a revolution for the corseted woman of 1907 in that it was of pleated silk, simply cut, and hung loosely from the shoulders. Fortuny regarded his new concept of dress as an invention, and patented it in 1909. The dress was modern and original and numerous variations were produced—some with short sleeves, some with long, wide sleeves tied at the wrist, and others that were sleeveless.

The original Delphos gowns had batwing sleeves and usually had wide bateau necklines and always, no matter what the shape, a cord to allow for shoulder adjustments. They were invariably finished with small Venetian glass beads with a dual purpose: not only did the beads serve as ornamentation, they also weighed the dress down, allowing it to cling to the contours of the body rather than float. The pleats of the Delphos were achieved through Fortuny's secret, patented invention. However unconventional for the time, these dresses were extremely popular for at-home women entertaining and considered primarily tea dresses. It was not until the 1920s that women dared to popularize them as clothing acceptable to be worn outside the home. Fortuny's techniques were simple but effective. Today the Delphos dress has pleats that are as tight and crisp as when they were new. Storing them as rolled and twisted balls makes them convenient for travel and eliminates the need for ironing.

In addition to his work in silk, Fortuny began printing on velvet, first with block prints followed by the development of a stencil method that was a precursor of the rotary silk screen. The velvet found its use in dresses, jackets, capes, and cloaks to cover the Delphos gowns, as well as home furnishing fabrics, still available today. Since his work in silk and velvet never radically changed into anything different, it is almost impossible to establish a chronology of his garments.

To Mariano Fortuny fashion was art, an unchanging fashion outside the world of fashion. Although many of his contemporaries were innovative designers, their designs were created for a specific time and season with built-in obsolescence. By contrast, Fortuny's clothes are timeless. The elegant simplicity, perfection of cut, and unusual sensuality of color is where their beauty lies. Perfectly integrating these elements and placing them on the female figure makes a Fortuny garment a work of art—and as such they are in demand by museums and private collectors alike, often fetching as much as $40,000 per gown at auctions.

—Roberta H.Gruber;

updated by OwenJames

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