At Fortuny, love is something to which we hold dear.
After all, we owe much of everything we have together today to a man and a woman. Mariano and Henriette as we call them fondly within our conversations. The truth is, none of us were there to witness what went down in history as a great love story that unleashed the immense creativity of the artist, the painter, the textile designer, the engineer – the “magician of Venice.” We can only attest to the legend by what we can see. The studio and the factory where they spent their lives together in Venice. Volumes of pictures he took of her, paintings where she’s both the subject and the inspiration, dresses and scarves that adorned her body before getting to the collections of Isadora Duncan, Peggy Guggenheim to name a few, and eventually landed at some of the most respected museums of our world. Intimacy is in the way she lightly tilted her head, love is in the relaxed and tender look she gave, mutual bonding is in the way he captured this very delicate, private, beautiful moment so we and the generations following us can have a glimpse into what true love looks like.
Like most women of her time, Henriette didn’t claim a name for herself – her legacy tied to that of her husband and they were, as a team, happy that way. But who is this woman that guarded the heart and inspired the talent of a man like Mariano Fortuny? This time last year, the Museo Fortuny in Venice created an exhibition about her – Henriette Fortuny, Portrait of a Muse. In the exhibition, visitors not only see Henriette in the role of a wife, a supporter, a model, but also a creative collaborator. One picture to the next, we see Henriette transformed from a goddess in the Delphos gown to an artist mixing paint in a white overall, on the ground of what stands today as the Fortuny factory in Venice. We see a younger Henriette, loose hair and comfortably dressed in her room, to a mature traveller Henriette walking the ruins of Greek and Middle Eastern temples. There are two things that link all of these portraits together. The first is Henriette – there is an air of calmness, compassion, curiosity and agelessness in her eyes, the way she looked directly to the lens, not to intimidate but to open up her world to us. The second is the man who captured all of these moments for his own and for us.
No single word is enough to describe their relationship – a congregation of love, companionship, and respect may not suffice – but you get the idea. We the successor of Fortuny’s legacy find never-ending inspiration from this story of love. Love for what we do, respect for those around us, and unity through thick and thin.