Mariano Fortuny and his family collected textiles and costumes from around the world, compiling a rich resource that served as inspiration for his own designs. “A fabric design,” he once noted, “concretely captures a moment through the skill of the artist, who responds unconsciously to the place and time in which he lives.” This pattern of artichokes on serpentine trunks recalls 15th century Italian velvets. While the originals were sumptuously woven with gold metallic threads, Fortuny interpreted the style through a variety of surface treatments of his own invention. To achieve the mottled, aged look, a discharge agent appears to have been hand-applied to areas of the surface, bleaching the red dye from the silk pile. The discharge was also applied through a stencil to create a pattern. A corresponding stencil was then used to brush on an adhesive, onto which gold-colored (probably bronze) powder was applied. The metallic areas were then likely beaten and polished in the pile direction, to create uniformly soft and luxurious velvet.
- Silk and cotton velvet, printed with metallic pigments, designed by Mariano Fortuny (1871–1949), Italy, 1900–30, Bequest of Erskine Hewitt. 1938-57-1226-a