Italian Decor: Fornasetti’s Cupole Series is My New Obsession

Fornasetti cupola plate Pantheon
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Despite my love for Italy’s over-the-top Baroque art and sleek, modern accessories, I’m a fairly modest and spendthrifty person. But that does not mean that I don’t covet a design item, an objet d’art, from time to time.

Where on earth would I put a Fornasetti decorative plate of a dome from a famous Italian building such as the Pantheon? My grandma hung decorative plates, but those were always the hokey, machine-manufactured ones. My sister decorates with plates in her Florida home in a much more stylish way. But who has the time or patience to hang a decorative, delicate, and prone-to-breakage plate? We’ve hung decorative plates before, including one from Turkey that we lost during an earthquake tremor in Rome. So I’m not a huge plate-hanger.

Of course, you certainly don’t eat off of these vintage Fornasetti plates. That would be out of the question, risking a food stain on these incredibly precious designer plates. But if you were flush, you might consider it. A bunch of grapes or a small handful of roasted nuts would make the everyday snack more sublime. Maybe you could get away with putting those non-staining posh cicchetti on a Fornasetti plate?

A truly exquisite and suggestive Fornasetti plate among a sea of exquisite and suggestive Fornasetti plates. This one is not part of the Cupole series. But it was alongside the Cupole as I started researching this article and I just had to include it.

So why would you buy a Fornasetti dome plate if all you can do is admire it? That’s the point!

Compare the masterful design with photographs and paintings of the original domes. Follow the lines and the symmetry and the illusionistic technique that Fornasetti uses to hand-paint a trompe l’oeil dome on a porcelain plate. Each plate is truly a work of art. And they come in so many variations: the dome of St. Peter’s, the dome of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, the ceiling of Milan’s Galleria.

The Cupole series plates from Fornasetti were originally produced in the 1960s but were reissued in 2017-2018. For certified handpainted modern reissues, visit the Fornasetti store. If you’re in search of the 1960s versions, try Etsy, eBay, or other sites that sell vintage stuff. You never know—your local antique shop may surprise you.

Fornasetti is one of my greatest temptations, as far as interior decor is concerned. Hat tip to the Instagram account for bringing these to my attention.

Last updated on June 8th, 2023

Post first published on January 26, 2023

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