A wonderfully surrealistic ceramic paperweight in the form of an eyeball, created in the late 1960s by Piero Fornasetti.

PIERO FORNASETTI was born in Milan in 1913 and, from an early age, he started to draw. Much to his accountant father’s displeasure, he yearned to be an artist.  in 1932, Piero enrolled at the Accademia di Brera, but was expelled two years later for insubordination. He later enrolled in the Scuola Superiore of Arts Applied to Industry at Castello Sforzesco, also in Milan.  Irremediably rebellious, he was unable to adhere to the dogma of any school. Endlessly curious, he spent his days reading magazines and books on arts and science, and continued to study; appropriating information and constantly expanding the horizons of his knowledge. He taught himself lithography and etching.

In 1933 he exhibited his first artwork at the University of Milan and produced a series of printed silk scarves that caught the eye of architect and designer Gio Ponti. The two men collaborated on various projects and combined Ponti’s signature angular forms with Fornasetti’s witty and whimsical motifs. 

Fornasetti’s success reached its peak in the 1950s and, during this period, the artist created his Themes & Variations series, a collection of plates featuring his muse, the fin de siècle opera singer Lina Cavalieri, whose face he spotted in a magazine. He started painting her in 1952 and never stopped, creating a series of more than 350 pieces. 

By the 1970s, popularity for Fornasetti’s bold patterns had waned and the company was struggling financially, but in 1984 Liliane Fawcett and Giuliana Medda opened a gallery located in London's Notting Hill called 'Themes and Variations' where the pair sell 20th century decorative items., and specialize in objects from the Italian avant-garde movement of the late 60's, and especially the works of Piero Fornasetti.  They have been credited with almost single handedly accelerating the revival of his designs.  This also revived interest in his work overseas, where he was already widely known. As Fornasetti's oeuvre began to be rediscovered, Piero collaborated with Patrick Mauriés on the first monograph on his work, accompanied by an introduction by Ettore Sottsass. Sadly, the book was published posthumously.  Fornasetti died in 1988, having produced more than 13,000 designs over a 50 year period.  Fornasetti’s brilliant mind has inspired numerous designers over the decades, from Philippe Starck to Sue Timney. His son, Barnaba, continues the atelier today, with limited-edition pieces and a range of home accessories using archive designs.

Designer Piero Fornasetti
Manufacturer Atelier Fornasetti
Design Period 1960 to 1969
Production Period 1960 to 1969
Country of Manufacture Italy
Identifying Marks This piece has been attributed based on archival documentation, such as vintage catalogs, designer records, or other literature sources
Style Vintage, Mid-Century, Modernist
Detailed Condition Excellent — This vintage piece is in near original condition. It may show minimal traces of use and/or have slight restorations.
Product Code
Materials Ceramic
Color Black, white
Width 3.0 inch
Depth 3.0 inch
Height 2.3 inch
Quantity Available – 0