9 – Museo Fortuny

9 – Museo Fortuny, housed in a Gothic Palazzo, was transformed by Mariano Fortuny; into an atelier for his art and design creations.

Palazzo Fortuny, previously known as Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, was originally built for the Pesaro family, from the mid-15th century.

In the late 19th century Mariano Fortuny (1871–1949), took over the building as a studio and later in 1902 lived there. Today, the building still retains features created by him.

The museum presents paintings, fabrics, and Fortuny’s lamps on the first floor, together with the history of the palazzo and its atelier, on the second floor. 

Fortuny died in 1949 and in 1956, the Palazzo Pesaro Orfei was gifted to the city of Venice; who only took full possession in 1965, after the death of his widow, Henriette Negrin.

The museum was finally opened in 1975 and is now part of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia. A great opportunity to get inside the mind of this celebrated artist and designer!

  • Art Museum (includes many of his original paintings, fabrics, textiles, lighting and set-designs)
  • Cost: €10,00 (adults), €8,00 (reduced)
  • Suggested duration: 1-2 hours
  • Vaporetto stop: Sant’ Angelo


Palazzo Pesaro Orfeo - Fortuny Museum.Palazzo Pesaro Orfeo - Fortuny Museum.









Museo Fortuny – Building and History

Palazzo Fortuny, previously known as Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei; was built for Benedetto Pesaro from the mid-15th century.

This large building boasts two imposing facades, overlooking the Ca’ Michiel canal and the Campo San Beneto. Architecturally, the house has significant features:  two seven-light pointed arch windows on the first and second floor and unusual rooms length; that span the entire width of the building from facade to facade. The interior display, particularly refined and relevant architectural features, such as the wooden architraves and sculptured marble pillars of the first floor.

It was erected on a previous building constructed with the characteristics of a commercial fondaco; the typical Venetian trading house and warehouse and later enlarged with the addition of the rooms and storerooms

It was in a state of total neglect and decay when in 1898, attracted by its architectural beauty, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo took over the huge room located in the attic of the building, establishing his own studio in the loft. Here he worked on his artistic experiments and stage set designs.

Over the years, Fortuny acquired the other parts of the property, and began A gradually restoration. Fortuny eventually chose Palazzo Pesaro Orfei as his permanent home and in 1907, together with his wife and muse Henriette Nigrin; he set up a small workshop of fabric printing. In a few years, two entire floors of the building were occupied by his extraordinary atelier for the creation of distinctive dresses and silk and velvet printed fabrics.

In 1956, after Fortuny’s death (1949), the building was donated to the City of Venice to be “perpetually used as a centre of culture in relation to the arts.” On Henriette’s death, The city took over the building in 1965 and in 1975; the doors of this unique house-cum-museum were opened to the public.

The Palazzo Fortuny Museum has retained his vision on the visual arts; retaining typical features of Mariano Fortuny’s atelier. The space, structured like the wings of a theatre stage, houses a rich collection of works of art demonstrating Mariano’s different fields of investigation and experimentation: painting, photography, drawing, engraving, sculpture, technical and furnishing lamps, theatre models, printed fabrics and clothes, from the famous Delphos to theatre costumes.The source of inspiration of this eclectic artist can be found in his private library, on the second floor; rich with furnishings, objects of art and rare art and technique volumes.

Nowadays, Palazzo Fortuny still reflects Mariano’s brilliant capability of re-elaborating, experimenting and renovating and his impact on the international artistic and intellectual scene between the late 19th and the early 20th centuries.











Born in Granada in 1871, Mariano Fortuny was the son of an artist and he city in which he completed his studies as a painter in Paris; quickly finding a place within the art and social scene.

At 18 he moved to Venice, where he attended international artistic circles and would soon have figures such as Gabriele D’Annunzio, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Marchesa Casati, Eleonora Duse and Prinz Fritz Hohenlohe-Waldenburg amongst his friends. A visit to Bayreuth had a profound effect upon him and his interest shifted from painting to set design and stage lighting. His goal was to achieve the union of music, drama and visual presentation.

At the beginning of the 20th century, he was to design sets for the Italian premiere of “Tristan and Isolde”; at the Scala in Milan. Meanwhile, he began to develop his idea for the “cupola; a system of stage-lighting that would use indirect, diffuse illumination; freeing set design from the restrictions of traditional lighting. Enjoying the patronage of the Comtesse de Bearn, Fortuny’s revolutionary set designs were put into full effect; for between 1903 and 1906, the countess’s private theatre was equipped with a fully updated cupola system. Bringing him fame, his system was then produced in Berlin and adopted by major theatres throughout Europe.

However, Mariano Fortuny continued his search for new creative stimuli: he began to produce fabrics and printed textiles, in partnership with Henriette Nigrin. Together, after becoming his wife in 1924, they created the plissé silk dress known as the Delphos; which made Fortuny famous throughout the world.

In the 1930’s, even with many commissions coming in, Fortuny went on to make other innovations; for example, “Tempera Fortuny”, a coloured photographic paper.  Also, he   worked  on the illumination of some of the great cycles of paintings to be seen in Venetian scuole. These included, Tintoretto’s work at the San Rocco and Capriccio’s at San Giorgio degli Schiavoni.

Towards the end of the 1930’s, Mariano Fortuny retired and found more time, to take up painting and putting together a record of his very varied career.

He died in 1949 and is buried at Verano in Rome; alongside his famous father.



The collections within the museum, comprise an extensive number of pieces and materials; which reflect the various fields investigated in the artist’s work.

These are organised under specific headings: painting, light, photography, fabrics and clothes design.

Painting. The collection contains some 150 paintings by Mariano Fortuny, which illustrate the various phases in this phase of his career as an artist. His Wagnerian period, up until 1899, holds a central place; demonstrating a balance of painting and theatre, found in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. Equally fascinating for other reasons, are the portraits; in which the family and particularly his wife Henriette, play a fundamental role.

The Study of the Female Nude, made when he was just seventeen years old, is the first pictorial attempt known by the young Mariano. This theme, which he continued referring back to, became the palimpsest of techniques and styles; interwoven even through his photographic work.

Light. The main driving force and real heart of Fortuny’s work is light: perfectly identified with the creation of the celebrated theatre dome. The same light is found in his chromatic studies, in his dying of textiles, his shot fabrics and consequently; in many objects designed for furnishing.

A notable example, is the large ivory, silk gauze curtain; which increases and expands light throughout the entire space. The extraordinary lamps and chandeliers, all in the same stamped and painted material; follow the same line of study.

With their solid, metal construction and clean lines, the Fortuny diffusor lamps are absolutely practical and functional; for the specific lighting of various types of room, works of art and architecture.

Photography. The core of photographs shown here, are taken from either the collection left by Mariano Fortuny; or the rich collection of the “Musei Civici di Venezia”. The entire collection comprises works from 1850 to the Second World War; with a rich variety of styles, techniques and historic images.

Fortuny, neither was nor aimed to be, a professional photographer – he used the camera mainly as a tool for his work as a scenographer and textile designer. Nevertheless, even here, he inevitably reveals his eye as an artist. In his private shots and the pictures taken as an aide-memoire; he certainly achieved results that bear comparison, with those of the more famous photographers amongst his contemporaries.

The photographs of Mariano collected at Palazzo Fortuny, show family groups, friends and the famous celebrities; who formed part of Fortuny’s social circle, travel notes, interior shots, self-portraits and images of unusual fabrics.

Fabrics and cloths design. The Fortuny Museum’s collection of clothes, fabrics, trial prints, materials and ornamental clothes; make up a rich sample of Fortuny’s extraordinary work, in the field of fabrics and fashion design. He took old ornamental motifs and reinterpreted them in a very “modern” decorative style. The fabrics ranged from the simple diagonal-striped cotton cloth to velvets of silk and cotton – the perfect material for the famous polychrome printing, which was used mainly for furnishing fabrics. The satin, taffeta, silk gauze and velvets constituted the material for the Delphos,  coats, cloaks and capes; all imbued with infinite blended coloursand historical references.

He also fabricated decorative models and designs from precious Renaissance velvets and from fabrics from distant, exotic cultures which, once printed; imitated and reinvented the original handicraft. All thanks to his personal system of printing on inimitable material; producing such three-dimensional results.

In 1909, the greatest success of Mariano Fortuny’s workshop, was the creation of the “Delphos” – the iconic simple monochrome gown, that took inspiration from Greek mythology. However, he recognised that the true creator of the Delphos, was Henriette. A commercial success, the Delphos first got to be worn as a casual piece of clothing in various tones and colours; by the famous aristocratic ladies and international nobility, as well as celebrated dancers and actresses. It was was usually worn with a belt in printed silk satin or taffeta and could be matched with other Fortuny creations, like the Knossos shawl or sur-coats in silk gauze with or without sleeves; or jackets, tunics or capes of silk or printed velvet.


TOP 25 MUSEUMS. Select your museum and click on the link below:

1 – Palazzo Ducale (The Doge’s Palace)

2 – Peggy Guggenheim Collection

3 – Ca’ Pesaro

4 – The Correr Museum

5 – Galleria dell’Accademia

6 – Scuola Grande di San Rocco

7 – San Servolo Insane Asylum Museum

8 – Palazzo Grassi (Francois Pinault Collection)

9 – Museo Fortuny (not linked)

10 – Leonardo da Vinci Museum

11 – Fondazione Querini Stampalia

12 – Museo del Vetro

13 – Museo del Merletto

14 – Punta della Dogana

15 – Casa di Carlo Goldoni

16 – Museo di Storia Naturale 

17 – Museo Palazzo Mocenigo

18 – Museo Storico Navale 

19 – Museo della Musica

20 – Fondazione Vedova

21 – Museo di San Marco

22 – Museo Ebraico 

23 – Palazzo Cini

24 – Museo Provinciale di Torcello

25 – Museo Archeologico Nazionale 


LINKS (internalexternal)

Official Website of Palazzo Fortuny  

Email: fortuny@fmcvenezia.it      

The Museum – Catalogue – Exhibitions/Events – MUVE Education – Plan your visit – Contacts

Palazzo Fortuny – San Marco 3958 – 30124 Venice

Tel. +39 041 5200995 Fax +39 041 5223088   

To widen your experience and enjoyment before visiting, please see my comprehensive and illustrated posts below.

San Marco – District and Attractions

Scala Contarini del Bovolo   

Teatro La Fenice     Two other magnificent attractions within easy walking distance.)

Casanova-Life and Times   (The only memorial to him, is a stone plaque on the wall of the narrow Calle Malipiero in the San Samuele district, declaring that “Casanova was born here in 1725 to two impoverished actors”. He was also baptised in the San Samuel Church, behind the Vaporetto stop of the same name.)


9 – Museo Fortuny    9 – Museo Fortuny    9 – Museo Fortuny    9 – Museo Fortuny

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