A recent visit to Rome was a last-minute decision and a treat which sent me into Instagram overdrive (many apologies!) with snaps of frescos, classical architecture and palazzos. With no time for planning, you can imagine my intense delight when we got there to find a retrospective exhibition of Fornasetti design on at the 15th Century Palazzo Altemps. So – lovely readers – because there were no photographic restrictions, I am excited to be able to share with you a tailor-made blog tour of the exhibition …
Ancient and modern
Thoughtfully and humorously curated, the Fornasetti objects are displayed amongst the ancient sculptures and Renaissance frescoed rooms of the Palazzo. There is no particular flow to the rooms, you choose which direction to take which makes it all quite relaxed.
The Fornasetti history bit
It’s worth checking out the rather fun Pythonesque Fornasetti website for more information but briefly, the company was started by Piero Fornasetti (1913 – 1988) who was a Milanese painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver. He created more than 11,000 items, many featuring the face of a woman, operatic soprano Lina Cavalieri, as a motif. The company is now run by Piero’s son Barnaba who curated this exhibition.
Fornasetti’s whimsical designs cover everything from china to chairs, tables, chests of drawers, cupboards, mirrors, rugs, trays, screens and wallpaper – quirky, surreal even but always immaculately finished. Regardless of trends (probably more popular here in the 80s and 90s when Liberty stocked some of the furniture), Fornasetti designs cut their own groove and I think will always be classics in their own right.
Rug as wall art
Fornasetti Venetian blind with greek key pattern
Palazzo Altemps – the history bit
The Palace was built in the 15th Century and is rather like a city in its own right. It has its own private chapel as well as a sizeable theatre (in which Mozart once played) complete with more jaw-dropping frescos. The Palace has been owned by various noble Italian families from the Riarios to the Medicis, Orsini, Altemps and Hardouins before becoming in 1997 the Museo Nazionale Romano. When you walk into the courtyard and see ahead of you open frescoed verandahs with lemon trees you could be forgiven for thinking you had entered heaven …
Theatre at Palazzo Altemps
I have this thing with frescoed ceilings
I always notice how and where an exhibition is staged and whether it sits happily within its environment but it is rare to walk around with eyes as much on the ceiling as on the exhibition in question… You certainly get more than value for money with the 13 Euro ticket price!
In the UK, a selection of Fornasetti ceramic designs are available at Liberty and Harrods while a much larger offering including umbrella stands, bar stools, lampbases and chairs is available from Amara.
Cole and Son produce Fornasetti wallpapers which are enduringly popular. One of my favourites is Nuvole.
Palazzo Altemps opening hours
Piazza di Sant’Apollinare, 46 (just N of Piazza Navona), Rome
until 6 May 2018
Open Tue – Sun from 9am – 7.45pm
Tickets: €8 – 13
I would also like to share a very comprehensive and helpful list of several sites you can see in Rome for free.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope you have enjoyed this post – please don’t forget if you want to receive email alerts for future blog posts, then just press the large blue ‘Follow’ button either at the beginning or end of a post. With many thanks, Charis x
7 thoughts on “Fornasetti exhibition – Rome”
Wow what a fabulous exhibition to stumble across! Last May ambling around the Complesso del Vittoriano we came across a Botero exhibition which was superb, we loved it. Some of them are in private collections so rarely seen, the whole experience was just icing on icing on top of the wedding cake! Fantastic photos Charis. Xx
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Thank you Jo. Yes, I think it is absolutely possible to stumble across – and maybe is the nicest way to find treasures in Rome rather than completely planning everything and feeling that you are on a schedule. Love icing on icing on the cake as that was how it felt for us too. Xx
Another great post Charis! This reminds me of an encounter with Piero Fornasetti many many moons ago. I was in Milan researching for an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou called “Images et Imaginaires d’Architecture” about representations of architecture in the arts. At the time I didn’t know about Fornasetti’s work. (Nowadays he is an iconic figure but there was a period when his work fell – wrongly – slightly under the radar.) Anyway, I was walking in the city with Jean Dethier, chief curator of the exhibition, when we passed by a shop window that stopped us in our tracks. It was chockerblock full of things from plates to umbrella stands to trays and much more, covered in images including many architectural details. We tapped on the window and an elderly man opened for us. To tell the truth he was a little grumpy, not welcoming and not remotely interested when we said we wanted to exhibit his work at the Centre Pompidou! End of story though: we did present a beautiful cabinet that he had designed. xxx
Thank you so much Ruth for your very interesting reply recalling your encounter with Piero Fornasetti in Milan. When you mentioned how the shop was chock full of things, I too was surprised at the exhibition really quite how many different products Fornasetti designed as we have probably only seen a fraction in the UK. Xxx
Oh how absolutely wonderful!
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