Fortuny y Madrazo
is a beautiful and remarkable display at the Spanish Institute on Park Avenue in New York. This exhibition on Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (1871–1949) calls attention to his designs and legacy, including his iconic fabrics and fashion with particular attention on the influence of Spain. Fortuny was born in Granada, spent time in Paris, and his maturity in Venice, all the while never losing, as this exhibit illustrates, the overarching Spanish aesthetic of his creations.
The role of Spain on the fine and decorative arts is often overlooked by the herculean draw of the Italian and French artistic legacy. The early 20th century, with Northern Europe at war, brought focus on Spain, one of the few continental countries where students could still sample the Grand Tour. This is part of the reason there was the so called Spanish Revival in America with Mediterranean villas springing up across the country and Goyaesque costumes being donned. I was party to the legacy of this revival growing up in Southern California where the influence was most prevalent. Looking back, it was especially noteworthy when visiting my grandfather in Santa Barbara and attending their annual fiesta, which in part resembled an 18th century pageant. Many houses in California had Fortuny furnishings and some of the women most likely had dresses with signature Fortuny pleats— a hallmark of his Delphos and Peplos gowns. Just as when Fortuny’s designs were first featured in Vogue almost a century ago, they are still relevant to our modern aesthetic and in fact continue to be an influence.
Clarisse Courdert, wife of Conde Nast, in a Fortuny Delphos gown published in Women as Decoration by Emily Burbank, 1917.
This display at the Spanish Institute was conceived and curated by Oscar de la Renta along with Maury and Mickey Riad, all of whom have celebrated taste. It is one of the most beautiful exhibits this season in New York. I urge you to see it before it closes March 30th.
Read more about the show from the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute website, and enjoy these further examples of Fortuny’s work from the show.