Piero Fornasetti

Collectors have gravitated to the distinctive lithographed designs of the Italian artist and interior decorator Piero Fornasetti (1913-88) for more than half a century. Admired for their sense of colour, whimsy and humour, they have proved popular decoration for all manner of ‘canvases’ from commodes and umbrella stands to head scarves and wallpaper.

His son, Barnaba Fornasetti, continues to design in his father's name today - head of a still thriving Milan-based company. The secondary market makes a distinction between vintage pieces (those from the third quarter of the 20th century) and recently made items by Atelier Fornasetti. However, there is a ready market for both.

Most commonly encountered are Fornasetti’s host of lithographed and painted ceramics - coasters, ashtrays, lamp bases, teawares and the popular Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variation) plate series. The variety is enormous. Living most of his life in Milan, Fornasetti was constantly painting, drawing and designing from the 1920s right up to his death, creating more than 11,000 items. He created more than 500 different tea tray designs while his most famous motif - the face of 19th century operatic soprano Lina Cavalieri - was used in more than 350 different designs for Tema e Variazioni plates.

Prices will range from a few hundred pounds for a set of Atelier Fornasetti coasters to five-figure sums for first edition pieces of furniture. Perhaps the best known of these are the series of one-off cabinets made in the late 1950s in collaboration with the Italian architect and designer Giò Ponti who later called Fornasetti a “champion of invention and production in art”.

Sworders conduct specialist Design auctions showcasing affordable and stylish ceramics, glass, metalwares, sculpture, pictures and furniture from the period 1860 to the present day.

The 20th Century Design sales caters for all budgets with estimates ranging from £100 to £100,000 and covers the key movements from Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau to Art Deco and Modern Design.


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