the charioteer of delphi

Auriga (detail of The Charioteer of Delphi, 478 or 474 BC)  from the series:   “Il tempo grande scultore"That Mighty sculptor, Time

Photographer:  Giovanni Ricci Novara

From Wiki: The Charioteer of Delphi, also known as Heniokhos (Greek: Ηνίοχος, the rein-holder), is one of the best-known statues surviving from Ancient Greece, and is considered one of the finest examples of ancient bronze sculptures. The life-size (1.8m) statue of a chariot driver was found in 1896 at the Sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi. It is now in the Delphi Archaeological Museum.


It’s FRIDAY FASHION FACT, and it’s time for our next designer bio! Today we are talking about the innovative and inspiring Mariano Fortuny.

Mariano Fortuny was born in 1871 in Granada Spain. Both his father and maternal grandfather were renowned painters. Though his father died when Fortuny was only three years old, he remained a source of inspiration throughout the designer’s life. Fortuny’s parents had a wide textile collection which fascinated Fortuny from a young age. Throughout his youth, he lived in some of the great art cities of Europe, including Paris and Venice. He became involved in many forms of art, including painting, photography, and even lighting and set design for Wagner operas. In fact, it was Mariano Fortuny who pioneered the idea of theatre designers working in tandem with the construction team to mold and adapt the design every step of the way. To this day, this remains one of the first lessons taught to aspiring theatre designers.

Fortuny continued to be involved in theatre for the remainder of his career, both designing and inventing new forms of stage lighting. But the reason we are talking about him today is, of course, his fashion designs. During he rise of his fashion career around the turn of the 20th Century, women’s fashion consisted of highly structured, corseted, and typically quite heavy gowns. Fortuny was inspired by classic simplicity of the ancient Greeks, though, and thus took his designs in a completely different direction from the top fashions of the day. His looks were extremely avant-garde for the time, and only the most daring women would don his sleek creations. Not only were the looks shocking to polite society, but they were originally designed to be casual tea dresses. As a result, women would only wear Fortuny designs at home. It wasn’t until post World War I, when corsets fell from favor and gowns were simplified, that Fortuny gowns were seen in public.

The epitome of Fortuny’s aesthetic is in the infamous Delphos gown. This simplistic gown, named for the ancient Greek bronze statue, The Charioteer of Delphi, was created using tightly pleated silk. First created in 1907, Mariano Fortuny made a number of variations of the Delphos gown throughout his career. The silhouette itself was extremely simple, mimicking the Greek chiton (read here.) Yet it was the perfectly pleated, airy silk which caused such a stir. The edges of the silk would be minimally trimmed with Murano glass beads which would slightly weigh down the light fabric so that it hugged the body. The fabric was created using a top secret formula where the fabric was heated and pressed with ceramic. However, the process was so closely guarded that its exact specifications remain a mystery to this day, and the pleating has yet to be replicated. Even at the time the dresses were first created, if the pleats were ever accidentally pressed out of a gown, the owner would need to return the piece to Fortuny’s personal studio to have it re-pleated.

Fortuny lived most of his later years in Venice in a 13th Century palazzo along with his wife Henriette, also a skilled dressmaker who helped create many of her husband’s designs. Fortuny passed away in 1949, yet his stunning designs remain some of the most sought after vintage pieces in the world.

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The Charioteer of Delphi, 478 or 474 BC, Delphi Museum.

The statue was erected to commemorate the victory of a chariot team in the Pythian Games, which were held at Delphi every four years in honor of Pythean Apollo.