Empire Barnaba Fornasetti takes BAZAAR through Casa Fornasetti in Milan, where the family’s wild, artistic madness first began, and lives on.
One of Italy’s most fascinating artists, Piero Fornasetti, found operatic soprano Lina Cavalieri’s inexpressive stare so captivating that he created a rendition of her gaze, and turned it into a brand and business. Thousands of home accessories, hundreds of plates, and over 60 years later, Piero’s son, Barnaba, heir and keeper of the Fornasetti dream, continues to uphold the Italian brand’s identity while reshaping his father’s legacy.
Opening the doors to Casa Fornasetti in Milan’s Città Studi district, Barnaba shares that the house is three-generational, where his father and him had both spent their childhood. Constructed by his grandfather, Pietro, in the late 19th century, this was where Piero first created decorative art and furniture. “It was when my father started working together with Gio Ponti that they realised the potential of venturing into the design industry with impeccable artisanship and art,” explains Barnaba. “This is one of the first items ever created back in 1941,” he says, pointing at a trumeau, one of Fornasetti’s most coveted originals. “The technique is called trompe-l’œil and the decorations were purely painted by hand, down to the smallest details like the typographic characters. Trompe-l’œil means deceiving the eye in French, and is a smart way of giving the optical illusion that the object is three-dimensional.”
The house has come a long way since its early days, with Barnaba injecting doses of his personality into the décor. “When my father lived here, we had more antique pieces and less decorative accessories. I’ve decided to enrich the place with more Fornasetti pieces and contemporary objects. I wanted the house to mirror the vision that I am devoted to. It is my canvas and I am free to transform it.”
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