Fornasetti: An Italian Legacy Continues

Reinventions of original designs for modern wallpapers



Fornasetti the man, the artist, and the atelier are all pervasively synonymous with the legacy of Piero Fornasetti.  A Milanese painter, sculptor, interior decorator, engraver of books, and creator of more than 11,000 products, he was yet another great impresario of Italian design and wit.  Fornasetti’s production of objects and furniture was one of the largest of the 20th century.  Even today, under the leadership of his son Barnaba, the firm is thriving and ever-growing with the introduction of many re-inventions all referenced through the vast archives available to him.

The Fornasetti name is one of the most recognizable in the decorative arts today.  Once celebrated as one of the most original creative talents of the 20th century, the firms highly whimsical products  are no less engaging or visually exhilarating as they were when first introduced shortly after World War II in Italy.


The most famous image that inspired Fornasetti to coin the title ‘Tema e Variazioni’, is the enigmatic face of a woman: the opera singer Lina Cavalieri.


Fornasetti’s son is perpetuating the Fornasetti tradition by continuing to produce and revive classic Fornasetti designs.  At the helm of the company, Barnaba Fornasetti is the custodian of his father’s heritage.

An abundance of important motifs have emerged from the Fornasetti archive thanks to Barnaba’s skillful tenacity and dedication.  The Fornasetti Atelier is currently managed by Barnaba, who has successfully maintained in-house production and revived as well as reinterpreted his father’s designs. Barnaba also works in collaboration with specialised companies who are entrusted to produce licensed products under the Fornasetti mark.  The Fornasetti legacy has been secured thanks to Barnaba Fornasetti’s commitment to projects designed to articulate his father’s oeuvre.  And, most importantly, the extraordinary visual language of Fornasetti is as active and articulate as ever.


Teatro, originally designed for umbrella stands in the 1950’s

The company’s craftsmanship and artistry are stringently maintained within the atelier to produce these magnificent items of categorical pleasure and fantasy.  To own a piece is to belong to a very special group of admirers and connoisseurs of the decorative arts.

Today, in collaboration with the distinguished British house of Cole & Son, purveyors of fine hand painted wallpapers since 1875, Fornasetti has introduced a most amusing line of new papers to captivate and to conjure up Piero’s spirit and genius.  Each new design, with all of the colorways are viewable on their website.

Comprising of fifteen designs, Cole & Son’s new collection follows the success of the first collection in 2008, delivering a repertoire of magical themes within a collection of designs that are at once iconic and highly desirable.


Detail of Ucelli, originally created as a decorative folding screen

Fornasetti II takes a bold step in wallpaper design, transcending the obvious and transforming eclectic and whimsical drawings into a truly stunning array of coordinating wallpapers in an exciting range of colors and styles.  Eccentric motifs of fantastical flying machines, architectural details, playful monkeys, keys and owls all evoke a theatrical and magical aura, while the use of wide width friezes, borders, digital panels and double width papers gives this collection an unparalleled diversity in the ways in which they can be used.

Commenting on the new collection, Barnaba Fornasetti stated: “Pablo Neruda once described my father as the magician of precious and precise magic – and I think that this decorative collection beautifully captures the magical essence of the Fornasetti world”.   Many of these designs have been seen and used prior on folding screens or on furniture and have now been adapted to be used to decorate wallpapers.  In this manner, the legacy and artistry of Piero Fornasetti continues and becomes accessible to that many more consumers.

This is by far one of the most exciting new product lines to come across my desk this year. I would also recommend visiting the Fornasetti website.  It is a special treat unto itself – with biographies, videos, interiors, tours of the atelier, the shop and vintage and new product lines.

In the New York showroom Lee Jofa has created a number of eye-catching displays in order to showcase this new line which they represent.  These papers as well as the complete line of Cole & Sons is exclusively represented nationwide through Lee Jofa.  If you would like more information or to arrange a visit to see the complete line Karen Rodgers, the New York Showroom Manager will happily assist you.  She can also graciously connect you to their regional showrooms and staff who stand at the ready to assist you in discovering these truly beguiling papers.



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Written by Carl Lana