The exhibition is a tribute to a woman who, by her intelligence and sensitivity, succeeded in supporting and inspiring one of the most refined artists of the past century.
Adèle Henriette Nigrin was born in Fontainebleau in 1877 in a family of tradesmen and met Mariano Fortuny in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century.
Fortuny was already a well-known artist, involved in experimenting with a complex system of lighting that from its early application would revolutionize stage lighting in the theatre. She was a model in a sculpture workshop. The meagre biographical notes tell us little more. But what is clear is that from 1902 for 47 years, Henriette would be at Fortuny’s side, contributing in a decisive manner to the success of his splendid textile creations. She was, for instance, responsible for the idea of the Delphos, the fine plissé silk gown that became a worldwide icon of style and the symbol of a timeless elegance.
In the house and workshop of Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, Henriette worked alongside her husband in the creation of fine printed fabrics and silk lampshades, coordinating the work of the craftsmen they employed. She maintained the relations with an increasingly numerous and international clientele, leaving Fortuny to his studies, research and experiments in various artistic disciplines.
Her calm and reassuring beauty, those amber eyes, porcelain-like skin, naturally wavy hair and sweet expression were the source of inspiration for many of the works Mariano produced during the many years of life as a couple. And after the death of her husband (1949) and the sale of the Società Anonima Fortuny to her friend, Elsie McNeill, Henriette dedicated the rest of her life to fulfill Mariano’s testamentary wishes – donating numerous works to Italian and Spanish museums – and creating an inventory of the works of art in the palazzo, which upon her death was bequeathed to the city of Venice.
- Mariano Fortuny, Portrait of Henriette Fortuny, 1915. Photo by © Claudio Franzini for Museo Fortuny
- Henriette in Paris, 1902 © Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia Archivio Museo Fortuny