Why did you choose the Fortuny lamp?
The Fortuny lamp is the first important item we purchased for our future home about 6-7 years ago – before we actually had a house and prior to any other acquisitions. My opinion back then – and still holding – was that a beautiful sofa and lamp are absolutely quintessential for a great living-room. The lamp is truly exquisite, like an exotic animal that finds itself in a domestic milieu by some bizarre chance.
In your opinion, what makes it more special than other objects in the same category?
The first time I saw the lamp was in an interior design magazine; its large and exotic shade resembling a Japanese umbrella fascinated me. I did not know anything about it, but it stuck in my head. Its proportions were outstanding – tall, slender and stable at the same time. A few years later, I searched for it and also learned about its creator. I was astonished to discover that this extremely contemporary design was created in 1907. 111 years ago!
The lamp was designed by Mariano Fortuny – a fascinating character (painter, sculptor, architect, designer, photographer, inventor) – as a (theater / opera) stage device which would prove his own theory on indirect lighting and for which he invented the dimmer. Fortuny said “It is not the quantity, but the quality of light, that makes things visible”.
In 1985, the Italian company Pallucco started manufacturing it following the original 1907 project (black, initially) in several other colours for the shade and finishes for the base. The Moda version has a cream shade and gray/titanium base.
How does the lamp relate to the other items it shares that space with?
Our style can be defined as eclectic. The Fortuny lamp is in complete harmony with a clean lines sofa and a cow-hide rug, with the Buddhist pine found in Craiova (!), a Biedermeier cabinet retrieved from an apartment we used to live in for a period and with Arbor – the tree-hanger designed by my husband, who is an architect. It also matches really well with the Euro Lantern from Moooi – the black and white pendant light above the dining table.
At the same time, the lamp functions as the single point perspective in the living-room in front of the large glass-door overlooking the terrace. Given its considerable size and special design, we allowed quite a lot of space around it, to let it breathe. This makes it appear rather solitary. And it is exactly this solitude that I love in it. It seems so self-sufficient. And coming home after a hectic day in the city, its very solitary presence is incredibly soothing.
What does its presence stir in you on the level of aesthetics, emotions, practicality, etc.?
I remember the day it was delivered to us after we purchased it. We were living in a rental while our house was still under construction. Since we had always visualised the lamp in the new house, we thought that bringing it into that temporary space only meant giving it some sort of shelter before the big move. But after we unpacked and assembled it we realised how special it was and how it can transform any space. Its presence is almost overwhelming – in size, proportions and shape.
The lamp has an unquestionably strong presence – it is remarkable even when it is switched off. Firmly standing on its three legs, it is a model of stability. It is tall and slender, and its shade is simply beautiful. And ingeniously designed. When the lamp is on, it looks like a jellyfish. I like describing it as enlightened design!
Form vs. functionality? Generally, which comes first when you choose an object?
I believe in the form-functionality tandem. In the absence of functionality, we are left with form without substance. Moreover, I believe that creative solutions can be generated after certain functionality issues are solved – solutions which could not be reached if you started from the form. I like the form that derives from functionality.
The Fortuny lamp is one of the best examples of form and functionality together. It brings along two innovations (indirect light and dimmable light) displayed in a surprisingly modern and timeless form. The shade can slide to redirect the light, and the base is designed to adjust the height of the lamp.
Conceived by Mariano Fortuny in 1907, the Fortuny floor lamp continues to be considered a contemporary and timeless icon to this day. With this lamp, Fortuny revolutionised stage lighting and experimented with a new indirect lighting system for the stage. The idea for the base came from the camera’s tripod, with its adjustable leg, while for the lampshade Mariano Fortuny reversed the typical lampshades of the time, making them tiltable and thus creating a light orientation instrument.
Fortuny floor lamp is an elegant illustration of his principle of reflecting diffuse light off of a concave surface. A similar technique is at work in a collection of Fortuny silk lamps influenced by Arabic decorative motifs.
Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo was one of the great creative minds of the early 20th century. He was considered by his contemporaries as the last Renaissance man. He was born in Granada Spain but lived in Venice Italy for most of his life. Though trained as a painter, Mariano Fortuny was an accomplished and innovative designer, architect, inventor, couturier, and lighting technician.
Fortuny’s other best-known design is the Delphos silk dress, pleated using a secret, patented technique, and ornamented with Murano-glass beads and cords. In the field of textile printing, he patented a number of dyeing and mechanical technics, and also had a great commercial intuition: to use cotton, a natural and inexpensive fabric, like a precious fabric. If properly dyed and printed, it could almost equal the beauty of a richer, more sophisticated brocade.
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Photo © COSMIN FROLU
Translation ⇔ ADINA SHOLLENBARGER