Detail of Fortuny Delphos pleats beneath a silk velvet coat stenciled in gold with motifs reinterpreting Coptic and Cretan designs.
Apart from the Classical influence, their were two sources of inspiration for Fortuny’s dresses and textiles: historical eras like the Renaissance and sixteenth-century Venetian art, and the world of the East.
The masters of the Renaissance and the great painters of Venice revealed to him the rich designs and colours of the costumes and fabrics of those ages. Everywhere in Venice there were reminders of this past glory. In every church there was a Tintoretto, a Bellini or a Carpaccio to recall that bygone era in which fabrics had played such an important part. At that time, Venice was one of the great centres of the European textile industry, and her velvets, brocades and damasks were famous throughout the world. Situated between East and West, she incorporated into her fabrics the luxury, the quality and the designs of an exotic world that fascinated Fortuny, as it had also fascinated his father and his mother. The paintings of Masaccio, Botticelli and Titian provided ideas for shapes, colours and motifs, many of which originated in China, Persia or Turkey. Fortuny would reinterpret them, producing luxurious yet simply cut velvet jackets, wraps, mantles and capes.
Eastern and Islamic cultures were another important source of Fortuny’s inspiration: the Japanese kimono, the Coptic tunic, the Arabic abaias, the North African burnous, the Oriental caftan, the Moroccan djellabah, the Turkish dolman, the jubbah and the Indian sari were all developed by him in an original way. He also produced ecclesiastical garments that recall the richness and quality of medieval chasubles.
All the dresses were produced in the studio at the Palazzo Orfei like true works of art. They were made by hand, individually, as were all the materials that went into them: the pleated and printed silk, the velvets, the cords that were used to gather them or unite the different parts, the linings which were of satin or sometimes, for greater warmth, of silk, wool or synthetic fibres, the belts and even the labels. Except for the glass beads ordered from the Murano glass factory, everything was made on the premises, including accessories; as the dresses had no pockets their wearers needed bags, which Fortuny made from his own multi-coloured velvet in very simple designs. The veils, foulards and shawls were also designed, dyed and printed in the palazzo.
—Guillermo de Osma, 1980