Fortuny and Maria Monaci Gallenga: exquisite fabrics, liberated bodies


Among the promised gifts of the American collector, Sandy Schreier, to the Metropolitan Museum, NY for the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1870,

are the clothes – body hugging, free flowing and liberated of all constraining corsetry – made of the exquisite embellished fabrics of 


Fortuny  (Mariano Fortuny e Madrazo, Spanish, 1871-1949)  and  Maria Monaci Gallenga, Italian, 1880-1944. 





Coat, 1920s, black and pale green silk velvet on silk-cotton ground printed with metallic pigment.   Fortuny, 1871-1949, Spanish




Fortuny’s wife, Henriette Negrin, French, 1877-1965, a textile and clothes designer, was his indispensable colleague and the keeper of his legacy after his death.


The museum notes that for his dresses, Fortuny sourced undyed fabric from Japan, India and China.  For his dresses, he pleated with a technique he developed, patented, and kept secret.  The textiles were treated to multiple dye baths with dyes which he and his wife developed from natural sources. 


The dresses were unstructured and took on the shape of a body: a complete change from the prevailing norms.


Venetian glass beads strung on silk were sown into the hems and the edges of sleeves to restrict the elasticity created by the pleating.







Tunic, 1930s, peach silk gauze, printed with gold foliate motifs, pink silk cord and brown and white glass beads.   Fortuny, 1871-1949, Spanish




Fortuny used block printing, hand-screening and stencil (pochoir) to print colours and metallic inks on fabrics so that they looked like the velvets, brocade or tapestries inspired by his large historic record of Medieval, Renaissance and Islamic fabrics.







Hat, 1920s,  black silk velvet imprinted with metallic pigment, and green silk velvet. Maria Monaci Gallenga, Italian, 1880-1944




Maria Monaci Gallenga

developed a different technique for printing fabrics

Designs, the museum says, were cut into thin wood blocks which were then glued to weightier wood supports. 





Jacket, 1920’s to 1930’s, blue silk velvet on silk cotton ground printed with metallic pigment. Fortuny, 1871-1949, Spanish




An adhesive film was applied to the blocks which were then pressed onto the textiles to transfer the patterns. 

Powdered metallic pigments – copper and zinc -, commingling with each other, would be brushed onto the adhesived areas. 








Coat, 1920s-1930s. Brown and green silk velvet on silk cotton ground printed with metallic print.   Fortuny, 1871-1949, Spanish




The results produced a muted, shade-shifting brilliance.








Coat, 1920s-1930s, burgundy silk plain weave printed with metallic pigment with cord of burgundy silk and gold metal threads, green, red and brown glass beads.  Fortuny, Spanish, 1871-1949








The dress, Delphos, 1920s-1930s, pleated black silk charmeuse, black silk cord, and brown-and-white glass beads; and belt detail.   Fortuny, Spanish, 1871-1949





Black and blue-green silk velvet printed with metallic paint, black silk cord with polymer glass beads.  Maria Monaci Gallenga, Italian, 1880-1944







Tea gown, black silk crepe printed with gold foliate pattern, black silk cord, black and white glass beads, 1910-15.  Fortuny, Spanish, 1871-1949








Evening cape, c. 1925, lavender silk velvet imprinted with metallic pigment, tassels of braided lavender rayon cord and metal thread. Maria Monaci Gallenga, Italian, 1880-1944






Evening cape, 1925, burgundy silk velvet printed with metallic pigment, tassels of braided burgundy rayon cord and metal thread.  Maria Monaci Gallenga, Italian, 1880-1944





















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