Be the muse: Henriette Nigrin
“THIS PATENT IS THE PROPERTY OF MADAME HENRIETTE BRASSART, WHO IS THE INVENTOR.” THIS SIMPLE NOTE IN THE MARGINS OF MARIANO FORTUNY’S PLEATING MACHINE PATENT PERFECTLY TELLS THE STORY OF THE SHARED PASSIONS AND COLLABORATIONS BETWEEN MARIANO & HIS WIFE AND MUSE, HENRIETTE NiGRIN. A TALE OF PARTNERSHIP AND INSPIRATION.
So often, the female muse’s story relies on the artist’s genius when the muse herself is often the source of that genius. In fact, the mythological Greek Muses from which the artist-muse concept derives were themselves more guides than mere reflections of great knowledge and beauty.
The relatively modern notion of a human embodiment for creative motivation is a story we know well from the last century. Georgia O’Keefe, Dora Maar, Lee Miller, and Frida Kahlo are names often associated with some of the 20th century’s greatest male artists. But these women were creative forces in their own right, whose notability went far beyond their influence over their male romantic partners. Fortunately, events of the last half century have insisted upon a reexamination of the female creative, and these women’s legacies have withstood the tides of history. Not all women are so accredited.
For as much scholarship has been dedicated to Mariano Fortuny, many questions remain about Henriette Nigrin. Her early life is merely pieced together from official documents—birth and marriage dates, addresses in Paris and Fontainebleau, her father’s profession on Henriette’s birth certificate—scraps that tell us very little about the creative interior life of a young woman in Belle Epoque France.
Even the fateful story of how she met Mariano is a mystery. In 1897, Henriette was newly-wed to Jean Bellorgeot, a regional artist of little note. But by 1902, she was in Venice, 25-years old, divorced, and smitten with an industrious and imaginative Spaniard whom she must have barely known at that time. Legend says she landed the day the campanile at San Marco collapsed. No matter what led her to that moment, Henriette had arrived.
Closely ensconced with Mariano at the Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, the output of their combined artistic efforts was prolific. In those first years together, they constantly experimented and innovated. They dreamed up the Knossos scarf, printed velvet capes, and the Delphos, a gown most fitting of a Greek goddess. Henriette also originated a number of the Fortuny fabric’s colorways, researched and dyed by her hand.
She gracefully and adeptly managed the Palazzo Orfei fashion workshop, keeping their increasingly more international clientele pleased, while Mariano expanded the textile business at his Giudecca factory. Their success was almost immediate, with shops in Paris, London, and New York. Many of Henriette’s designs were noted by critics in popular magazines, and many more were credited to Mariano. In fashion and fabric, the two made advancements that are still considered revolutionary in the industry, with Henriette’s Delphos gown still unmatched by any contemporary attempts to replicate the process.
In February 1924, Mariano and Henriette finally married in a private ceremony in Paris with only two witnesses. The life they shared was intimate and full of possibility. Even after Mariano died in 1949, Henriette worked diligently to preserve their legacy until at the age of 87 years old, with all of their affairs in order and her husband’s name firmly planted in the history books, Henriette died in 1965.
Without the guidance and ingenuity of Henriette Nigrin—a muse in the truest sense—the Mariano Fortuny we admire today may have never known the reputation he has enjoyed. The passion of creation has fueled many great love affairs. As the living fruit of Mariano Fortuny and Henriette Nigrin’s labor, the Fortuny brand represents the great and spontaneous overflow of their shared vision to bring more beauty into this world.
Venus’ Looking Glass
Venus, the Roman goddess of love, beauty, and desire, possessed a magic mirror in which the viewer could see nothing but beauty. It is a symbol closely associated with the goddess and the genesis of the biological female symbol: a circle with a small cross below. Venus’ Looking Glass is where we find the mythical origins of the bellflowers in our Campanelle design.
When Venus misplaced the mirror one fateful day, a young shepherd came upon it and became totally entranced by the world of beauty it revealed to him. Desperate to have her mirror returned, Venus sent her son Cupid to retrieve her most prized possession. However, under the spell of the mirror, the shepherd boy would not willingly return it to its rightful owner. In haste, Cupid shot an arrow at the shepherd boy, causing him to drop the mirror, shattering it to pieces. From those pieces sprouted the delicate and voluptuous bellflower, campanula, or campanelle in Italian.
From this mythological story blooms a vision of romance and everlasting love uniquely captured by Fortuny in our pattern Campanelle. This 17th-century motif is a celebration of femininity and a reflection of ancient, timeless beauty.
Located in the D&D building, the hub of New York City design, the Fortuny showroom waits in anticipation as designers begin to wander through our doors with spring projects on the mind. Designers are looking to Fortuny as an influencer presaging this season’s trends.
Transitioning from the blank canvas look of trend’s past, this year is pointing toward a brighter, more lively future. Rather than white walls and white countertops, we’re directing designers toward bright blues, forest greens, and subtle tans to pull a room together. The focus is on creating visually inspiring spaces and reconnecting to the nature around us. Persepolis green & gold, Favo rubino & gold, and Delfino aquamarine & silvery gold are just a few favorites designers have responded to this month. In the spirit of Valentine’s day, pictured are some of the rouges and blushes that clients are favoring for that pop of color every room needs.
This stark change from soft neutrals to bold colors and patterns has Fortuny buzzing. Inspired by the vibrant colors of the Venetian sunsets, uniquely pastel buildings, and the complex depths of the canals, Fortuny’s newest collection pays homage to the roots from which it was created.
Due to launch this spring, the 2021 collection is taking perennial favorites and giving them an updated definition of modern. Fortuny has always had a classic, sophisticated sensibility, but this collection will make eclectic feel new again – grandmillenial chic, if you will. If there was ever a time for Fortuny to be on everyone’s “must-have” list, it’s now. With an unmatched ability to stay ahead of the times, Fortuny will continue to inspire for seasons and centuries to follow.
We hope to see you in the showroom soon. And for those paying attention, we’ve already shared sneak previews of what to expect from our new collection.
Inside: The Den
Whether you call it the den, the study, or the snuggery, it’s the coziest spot in the home for curling up to a good book and the go-to room for a romantic night in.
This palette of bittersweet, blackberry, and marmalade is sweetly amorous and seductively embracing without suggesting boudoir. Instead, the palette mimics the cooler colors of the flames with dramatic foliage motifs that replicate the fire’s captivating dance
Listen to our latest playlist inspired by the den and catch the vibes Fortuny brings to your home.