Collection of Piero Fornasettis plates as featured in the "il piatto forte" exhibition




EXHIBITION “IL PIATTO FORTE” – 13th June – 14th September
Piero Fornasetti’s birth centenary celebrations continue with the exhibition “Il piatto forte”; this Italian idiom ironically points out the “Fornasetti’s special dish”, one of his most iconic creations: the plate.  Together with the plates, their original color guides will be displayed. These are true works of art on paper left by the artist for posterity, as a precise indication for them to color his creations in exactly the same way he would have done.


At the end of their visit, guests could vote for their favorite plate set and after the exhibition closes the most voted set  will be reintroduced in the current production, unless of course it is already in production.


The centenary offers the opportunity to present to the public the multitude of Piero’s creations which, being so many, are often just marginally known. In the 21 cm diameter, thirty-four separate plates with different decorations and sixty-two sets of six, eight or twelve pieces were produced. In the 23 cm diameter, one-hundred-seventy-two separate plates with different decorations and ninety-seven sets of six, seven, eight or twelve pieces were produced. In the 26 cm diameter, one-hundred-fifty-four separate plates with different decorations and one-hundred-forty-six sets of six, eight, twelve ore twenty-four pieces were produced. Round plates, excluding the  Tema e Variazioni (Theme and variations) series (more than 350 plates) add up to nearly three thousand pieces.


In the first years of production, between 1950 and 1952, most of the plates were ceramic. Later Fornasetti acquired porcelain from several companies, mostly in Germany, (Rosenthal, Arzberg, Hutschenreuther), but also Italians (Ginori e Laveno), not always of the finest quality. Fornasetti believed that the scrupulous search for the perfect material was not important; the object’s true quality would be in its decoration. The plates were produced almost exclusively a coup, meaning without a rim. Fornasetti decorated rimed soup plates only on commission.


Fornasetti was fond of tables set for a meal and loved to use them as installations during exhibitions or events and were also a pretext for involving other artists, poets, intellectuals, artisans and friends. One of the best remembered was called Giornali (Newspapers) and was set up at the terrazza Martini in Piazza Diaz in Milan, a mythical panoramic site frequented by the city artists and intellectuals. That table, the one that may have had the greatest impact and visibility, was like a large newspaper cut into the shapes of a fork, glass, plate, vase, flower, tablecloth and napkin. Every object that set the table was decorated with the typographic character as though Fornasetti, once again, was trying to overturn the perception of objects and their meaning.


As time went by he conceived creations that were increasingly foreign to the vision and the apparatus of industry. “ Industrialists are always the same” Fornasetti said in a 1963 interview. “They’re people who think on the basis of a popularity rating, following the television system, meaning the imbecility rating,” he said.


For example, in the “Grande Antico” series, he used a highly particular technique that he had discovered almost by accident. It consisted of spotting the raw ceramic material with an acid that made the surface opaque. Then the ceramic piece was painted with pure gold that, because of the spotting, would be absorbed in a way that was not uniform. The result was a  dappled area surface that changed according to the light.


Fornasetti also drew liberally from the great archetypical subjects of the past, including astrology music, botany, zoology, numismatics, folklore and topography, using them to make his objects tell stories or fables, and narrate forgotten or invented events. In this way he gave life to countless series of plates baptized Astronomici (Astronomics), Astrolabi (Astrolabes), Strumenti musicali (Music instruments), Arcimboldesca (Arcimboldo-style), Stoviglie (Crockery), Ricette di pasta (Pasta recipes) Maschere italiane (Italian masks), Città d’Italia (Cities of Italy), Cortili (Courtyards),  Uccelli calligrafici (Calligraphic brids), Sezioni di frutta (Fruit slices), and he dedicated sets to architects, writers, navigators and musicians. Among the most famous series are Cupole d’Italia (Domes of Italy) and Specialità regionali italiane (Regional specialties of Italy), Which went into production in the late 1960s. The latter, its pieces like pages extracted from a big illustrated culinary dictionary, presented the county’s most representative delicacies with images that include the recipe in a fine hand, along with an important monument from every city. This became one of Fornasetti’s bestselling articles, thanks to their perfect fusion of art and popular culture.


Fornasetti showed a special talent for suggestion. He knew how to imbue something with character, and animate fable figures with a knowing hand, materializing distant and fantastic worlds: Le Oceanidi (Oceanids) feature visionary presences that are half human, half seashell; the Sirene  (Sirens) are urea creatures from the dark depth of the sea; and the Le Arpie Gentili (The gentle Harpies) are fantastical birds with women’s head.


More than anywhere else, Fornasetti expressed his dreamlike, visionary talents in the series of plates Città di carte (City of cards). He constructed landscapes, views of surreal cities where bridges, square, roads and palaces are imagine like an ephemeral castles of cards, fragile structures at the mercy of the slightest breeze, dependent on the mood of a child god who could scatter the queen of hearts, jack of diamonds, and ace of spades with a quick sudden gesture.


From Atelier Fornasetti, Corso Matteotti 1/a 20121 Milan. T. +39 02 89658040.