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The Insider: the madcap world of Fornasetti

We're still searching for something to put in the 1950s glass-fronted cabinet from my grandma's house (which you can see, in need of some love, here). 

It's in the kitchen and, with its location in mind, my boyfriend sent me the photo below as inspiration.

It's a rare 1955 pizza recipe plate by the Milanese designer, Pierro Fornasetti. It was listed on a Knightsbridge-based antiques website, Vandekar, where prices are only available upon registering. I could tell from the font it would be out of my money league, but it got me looking into Fornasetti a little more.

I'm familiar, as you probably are, with the instantly-recognisable Fornasetti faces, which appear on assorted ceramics from shops including Selfridges, also not cheap, and on Cole & Son wallpapers (this design itself, a limited edition, is now extremely rare, but you can still buy other Fornasetti designs from them).

Fabrics and Papers sell Fornasetti cushions
The faces design, above and left, is called 'Tema e Variazioni', and was based on the opera singer Lina Cavalieri, whose visage entranced Fornasetti after he saw it in a magazine.

In Fornasetti's hands, so to speak, her face went on to spawn 350-odd design variations.
Piero Fornasetti (pictured right) was a nineteenth-century Milanese, painter, engraver, sculptor and interior decorator whose work is so recognisable today because the man created more than 13,000 products, each with a dash of his trademark whimsy, wit and weirdness.

In fact, the pizza plate, and his pasta plates (below, from another online antiques dealer, 1st Dibs, whose prices you can guess at by the fact that fellow shoppers include Diane Von Furstenburg and Marc Jacobs) are probably the most conventional things Fornasetti created.
 He also did some brilliantly madcap recipe plates, like these.

In the python recipe, below, the instructions are particularly good: "Put yourself in a quiet mood, isolate yourself in the kitchen, above all shoo out the critical cat..." he begins. Then: "laugh at such comments as 'will serve six'...Pay no attention to measurements on cans. Take a moment to size up your guests (six) by height, heft, age and make an adeguate mathematical guess."

But enough of this stuff-we-can't-afford tease. How about some interiors inspiration from the man's crib? While browsing through the official website, I came across these incredible photos of it.

The house, in Milan, was built by Piero's parents in the 19th century and is full of his artwork and stamped with his unmistakable aesthetic. Wonderfully, it remains the family home and is maintained by his son Barnaba Fornasetti, who also now runs the design company. Sadly for us, because it is inhabited, it can't be nosed around museum-like on an Italian holiday, but you can take a pretty good virtual tour at

Post by Kate. Images: Fornasetti; 1st Dibs; Vandekar; Fabrics & Papers; Cole & Son

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