VIF has made a considerable contribution to the restoration projects in Palazzo Fortuny. The Foundation has dedicated its energies to the emblematic and extraordinary figure of Fortuny in the place that most represents him: his workshop in the Museo di Palazzo Fortuny.
Realised in 1912, it was conceived in Paris with the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio – who christened it the Teatro delle Feste (Festival Theatre) – and the architect Lucien Hesse. The theatre was to have been built at l’Esplanade des Invalides in Paris and consisted of a stage and a hall covered by a single, enormous canvas dome, thus creating the impression of being in the open air, as in a Greek theatre. The project unfortunately never came to fruition.
VIF has contributed to a conservative restoration, which has halted the processes of decay and enabled the original surface tones to be rediscovered subsequent to a cleaning process. A particularly delicate and difficult intervention has been carried out on the silk veil and the lighting system, which now works again.
The restoration of the model of the Teatro delle Feste has been undertaken by Stefano Provinciali and Francesco Rado for the electrical equipment, and financed with the ‘Missione Fortuny’ project by the members and friends of VIF thanks to the acquisition of virtual seats in the theatre that each donor has been able to personalise with his or her name.
In the Museo di Palazzo Fortuny, the atelier in which Mariano Fortuny worked is still visible, and here, over a period of time from 1915 to 1928, he decorated a surface area of approximately 140 square metres with a pictorial cycle created using tempera colours.
Fortuny designed and painted a kind of ‘enchanted garden’ animated by female and allegorical figures, peacocks and exotic animals shown amidst architectural inventions decorated with floral and grotesque motifs.
The supports consist of wooden frames and hemp cloths onto which sheets of heavy dusting paper have been glued. On the wall facing the courtyard, the support is instead of plywood panels; this is probably part of the decoration to have been painted.
During the restoration, the painting techniques have emerged: the preparatory drawing is predominantly executed in pencil, while the colouring of the large fields of colour was done using pigments spread in transparent layers, which become more full-bodied in the highlights, foliage and floral motifs. The restoration has led to the discovery of some gilded parts, probably executed in shell gold, which emphasise the highlights in the upper part of the central panel but are barely visible from below.
The restoration has been carried out by Stefano Provinciali and Francesco Rado for the electrical equipment.
Mariano Fortuny’s great passion for theatre led him to examine above all the technical aspects of staging a performance and in particular led to an interest in innovation in set design and lighting equipment.
The small-scale theatre models that he built with his own hands were fundamental to his research.
The model of the Bayreuth Theatre, made of wood and metal in 1903, presents the floor plan, stage elevations, innovative lighting applications and indirect and diffuse lighting systems on a reduced scale. It is an intricate and complex system made up of small cables, electrical power transformers and light bulbs, backdrops and scenes painted on cardboard, and the ‘dome’, the revolutionary stagecraft element designed by Fortuny.
The restoration of the Bayreuth Theatre model is part of the ‘Fortuny Mission’ project and has been financed by members and friends of The Venice International Foundation thanks to donations inspired by four characters from Wagner’s operas – the Flower Maidens, Wotan, Sieglinde, Mime – depicted by Mariano Fortuny in paintings and engravings.
The Fortuny Theatre Project Album, kept in the Museo di Palazzo Fortuny, is an extraordinary and unique collection of drawings by Mariano Fortuny concerning his studies and the scenic and lighting applications he designed to back his complex and wide-ranging reform of theatrical performance in the early twentieth century.
Also included in the album are some drawings and sketches dating back to 1898 of set designs for Wagner’s operas, some architectural reliefs of the Bayreuth theatre, but above all the first drawings from 1902, made in Paris, of the structure of the stage device commonly known as the ‘Fortuny Dome’ and the system for lighting the stage with indirect and reflected light.
The album is of considerable size in terms of size and thickness and encloses an undefined, but very substantial number of drawings directly attached to canvas holders.
The type of mounting, size and quality of the drawings contained are such that the album’s state of preservation is very poor. There is much damage as well as tears and gaps. Heavy folds have left their mark on the fibres of the mounts, breaking them. There is a great deal of dirt spread throughout and there are various stains on the mounts. In view of the type of mounting, which is wholly unsuitable for the purposes of conservation, the miscellaneous collection has been split and each individual drawing detached from the brackets and placed on double-sided sheets for conservation with the inventory number on the outside.
The restoration of the Disegni Teatro album has been carried out by Margherita Errera as part of the ‘Mission Fortuny’ project.