Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988), Milanese painter, sculptor, interior designer, art book printer and creator of more than thirteen thousand objects, was commissioned at the end of the 1940s to decorate the Arlecchino (Harlequin) movie theater, dedicated to one of his favourite characters from Italian popular culture. The cinema still exists, now managed by the Cineteca Milano, and until 29 February the foyer is hosting the exhibition Fornasetti servitore di Arlecchino (Fornasetti, servant of Harlequin – Tuesday to Sunday from 14.30 to 21.00, free admission).
The Cineteca Milano was founded in 1947 by Luigi Comencini and Alberto Lattuada with the aim of preserving and promoting cinema in the capital of Lombardy. It is a centre for the exchange of artistic and cinematographic languages. The Arlecchino Cinema, on the other hand, was founded in 1948: today it is recognised as a historical site and bears the signature of the architects Roberto Menghi and Mario Righini. In addition to Fornasetti, Lucio Fontana was responsible for the decorations.
At the centre of the exhibition is La scuola degli Arlecchini (The School of the Harlequins), a series of enamelled and ink-decorated wooden panels dating from 1948, specially made for the foyer of the cinema and recently restored for the City of Milan under the supervision of the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio.
Fornasetti’s decisive creative impulse came from the Carlo Goldoni comedy directed by Giorgio Strehler in 1947, which made the mask one of the most characteristic characters of the Italian theatrical world: the harlequin servant of two masters, whose title the exhibition ironically takes up.
Over the years, Fornasetti devoted himself to the study of this mask, which was charged with irreverence – like him, always seeking creative inspiration in the most diverse forms of art. In his works, one can see the influences of great painters such as Paul Cézanne and Joan Miró, who made the harlequin a favourite subject, with hints of Pablo Picasso’s harlequins, portrayed in static and thoughtful poses in their characteristic rhomboid costumes, but also of the characters of Djagilev’s Ballets Russes, for which Piero had a particular fascination.
The numerous works on display in the exhibition (objects, drawings, graphics) date from the 1940s and 1950s and all come from Fornasetti’s historical archive. Fornasetti, always an active promoter in the world of art and culture, is entering into a dialogue with the Cineteca Milano to return to the city an important, but almost unknown, place in its cultural panorama and history.