Tema & Variazioni

For Piero Fornasetti, a single idea provided enough inspiration to create infinite variations. In fact, much of his work involved constant evolutions of specific themes. By allowing his imagination to roam freely. Fornasetti was able to constantly reinvent or reinterpret an image.

Of these themes, the most recurrent are: the sun, playing cards, harlequins, hands, self-portraits. But the most famous, the image that inspired Fornasetti to coin the title ‘Tema e Variazioni’, is the enigmatic face of a woman: the opera singer Lina Cavalieri.

Taking her as much as a muse and as a motif, he would return to Lina Cavalieri’s face again and again throughout his career. The archetypal classic female features, and enigmatic expression of Lina Cavalieri became Fornasetti’s most frequently used template and upon which he based more than 350 variations.

Lina Cavalieri’s face, explained Piero Fornasetti, was another archetype – a quintessentially beautiful and classic image, like a Greek statue, enigmatic like the ‘Gioconda’ and therefore able to take shape into the idea that was slowly building in his mind. It was this formal, graphic appeal (rather than Lina Cavalieri’s celebrity) that demanded such loyalty and inspired the spontaneous and ceaseless creativity of Fornasetti. For him, this face became the ultimate enduring motif. With great modesty all these works were reproduced on a series of everyday objects like the plate. Tema e Variazioni shows its variations playing with one idea.

Fornasetti’s son, Barnaba, is perpetuating the Fornasetti tradition by continuing to produce, and revive, Fornasetti designs. At the helm of the company and its creative heart, Barnaba is the custodian of his father’s legacy. The Fornasetti Atelier is currently managed by Barnaba, who has successfully maintained in-house production, revived as well as reinterpreted his father’s designs in creations referred to as ‘re-inventions’. Barnaba is also creating new designs for the ‘Tema e Varizioni’ series, like the plates 333 and 366 in collaboration with Nigel Coates.