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Ever since I first saw the seemingly etched face of a woman named Lina Cavalieri dripping in black and white halftones from candles, plastered on the backs of chairs, and resting on pillowcases, I needed to learn more about this  obsessive motif.

Piero Fornasetti and Lina CavalieriLeft / Right

Piero Fornasetti, an Italian sculptor-cum-interior designer and renowned Milanese painter, found the face in a 19th century magazine clipping.  There is something calming and curious about Cavalieri’s likeness, a modern Mona Lisa, her eyes follow you. And yet, for how many times the face has been stamped onto a plate or other objet d’art, it never becomes boring. A face, like a pattern, like a friendly sister or relative, I’ve grown close to her symmetry.

Piero Fornasetti and Lina CavalieriLeft / Right Original Source Unknown 

“What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman?” he once asked of himself. “I don’t know…I began to make them and I never stopped.” To date, Cavalieri’s ubiquitous face has been manufactured in thousands of ways. The artist crafted over 13,000 products in his lifetime which spanned 1913-1988.

Piero Fornasetti and Lina CavalieriTop / Bottom Left / Middle 1 / Bottom Right

“I do not believe in eras or times. I do not. I refuse to establish the value of things based on time.” – Piero Fornasetti

Her face, a blank slate and etched shape in all sorts of surreal vignettes: as Charlie Chaplin, as a bandit, eaten by a crocodile, as a pirate, whispering a secret, in the reflection of liquids, bent as in one of Dali’s clocks. What other heroin could be so iconic and multifaceted – equal parts vintage, contemporary, whimsical and serious. The chanteuse’s face simply never ages.

Piero Fornasetti and Lina CavalieriLeft Elle Decoration, Paris Kitchen, December 2010 / Right South African edition of Elle Decoration

The Fornasetti Atelier in Milan is an outpost of careful and accomplished craft production. There, skilled craftsmen and women use the same rigorous techniques as were employed on the very first Fornasetti products. Colour is applied by hand and the original paper patterns are still followed.

Piero Fornasetti and Lina CavalieriTop Left / Top Right / Bottom LeftBottom Right

Enter the Universe of Fornasetti:

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Keren Veisblatt Toledano is a User Experience Designer at Berya LLC. In her spare time she can be found soaking in Epsom salts, admiring copper pots, reading dystopian science fiction or sneaking a slice of lemon into her drinks. Her motto is, “A morning without coffee is sleep.” She lives in Philly with her cat, Cagney, partner, Michael, and son, Josiah.