Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (1871-1949) was a Spanish fashion designer who opened his couture house in 1906 and continued until 1946.
Fortuny was born to an artistic family in Granada, Spain. His father, a genre painter, died when Fortuny was three years old and his mother, daughter of another painter, Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, moved the family to Paris, France. It became apparent at a young age that Fortuny was a talented artist, as he, too, showed a talent for painting as well as a passion for textiles. The family moved again in 1889 to Venice, Italy. As a young man, Fortuny travelled throughout Europe seeking out artists he admired, among them the German composer Richard Wagner. Fortuny became quite varied in his talents, some of them including inventing, painting, photography, sculpting, architecture, etching and even theatrical stage lighting. In 1897, he met the woman he would marry, Henriette Negrin, in Paris. While in Paris, using all of his creative talents, Fortuny registered and patented more than twenty inventions between 1901 and 1934.
In 1892, after seeing some of Richard Wagner’s work in Paris, Fortuny traveled to Bayreuth, Germany where Wagner had built a theater specifically designed to put on his operas. He was mesmerized by Wagner’s work and began to paint scenes for his operas when he returned to Venice.
Through his experiences with Wagner and the theatre, Fortuny became a lighting engineer, architect, inventor, director, and set designer. He began experimenting with light and different ways to do this in the attic of his palazzo in Italy. With his experimentation, he found that reflecting light off of different surfaces could change the color, intensity and other properties of light. His 1904 treatise Eclairage Scenique describes the discovery that formed the basis of his indirect lighting technique. He used these indirect lighting techniques in his new invention, the Fortuny cyclorama dome, a quarter dome shaped structure of plaster or cloth. Fortuny first filed a patent for his indirect theatrical lighting system in 1901 and constantly refined his invention thereafter.
From the same concept of the dome, Fortuny created a lamp that could be used to recreate indoor lighting onstage, the Fortuny Moda Lamp. Although originally intended for use as a stage lamp and patented in 1903, this lighting fixture remains popular as a floor lamp.