This poem is a tribute to Mariano Fortuny, a Spanish-Italian artist and designer of the 17th and 18th century. While his interests spanned across many different creative pursuits including painting, set design, photography, industrial design, fashion and textile arts, he is most famous for his finely pleated Delphos dresses. Today it is still not known exactly how such fine and precise pleats were achieved and preserved with the existing technology of the time.   

  • A Poem in Pleats by Simon Zdraveski

  • Mariano Fortuny y Marsal, orphan raised by grandfather, 
an itinerant carpenter

  • From town to town, sketching, modelling, sculpting 
all before his eyes, the young artist

  • The pride of a Catalan, 
schooled in fine arts in Barcelona, 
guided by the spirits of the grand masters in Rome

  • In search of visual stimulation, 
dramatic light and shadow
, rich contrasting colours of Morocco

  • Moorish cities, Casbahs, back alleys, cafes and buildings - 
‘por pescar tipos’

  • An abiding appreciation 
for the most beautiful of objects, 
a smouldering Orient of the imagination

  • Cecilia de Madrago, sister and daughter of the painters, 
wife and mother of an artist

  • An aristocratic austere and conservative family,
 serving king, church and art
 with equal fervour

  • Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, born in Rome
, Spanish by blood, Venetian by inclination

  • Longing for places 
distant in time and space, 
fed by his father’s exotic collections; paintings and engravings of oriental fantasies

  • Mapped by mother’s passion for collecting 
fabrics of the lavish fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, 
when adornment reached a pitch of magnificence 
never equalled since

  • From the city of lights, Paris, 
to the silence of Venice, 
infused with calm and grace

  • Living in his own rich dream world, travelling for a quest for inspiration. 
For an artist, and ounce is worth a pound of reality

  • Disenchantment is a delicious attitude
, in honour of the Renaissance Masters, an artists of many talents

  • Drawn away from ordinary reality 
into a world of curious fantasy and 
mysterious silk

  • A reclusive perfectionist 
unmoved by fads, passionate about detail

  • Touched by the muse of Nefertiti, 
minuscule and perfectly even pleats 
creating an effect of rippling waves

  • Dyer-alchemist colours in vats 
emerging with a tint of strange dreams; imprints of the stars

  • Scarlet, crimson, violet, 
turquoise, sky, indigo blue, 
cyan, yellow, saffron, zabaglione

  • A simple red Delphos, 
a poem in pleats, 
a butterfly wing fragility

  • To seduce the world’s most elegant women, 
worn next to the bare skin, 
silk was invented so that women could go naked in clothes

  • The Delphos envelopes the body 
in a clinging fashion: underwear is simply a thin cable, 
over convex curves 
creating alluring zones of desire and temptation

  • Worn by the greatest actresses 
Eleanora Duse, Sarah Bernhardt and Ellen Terry
 on stage in the theatres

  • Of Paris and London, 
Rome, Naples and Venice
, Berlin, Barcelona, Zurich and New York 


  • Following the body’s contours, slightest movements cause 
ripples of supernatural grace, 
perfectly reflecting womens' changing moods of frivolity

  • Evoking fin de siécle decadence and romanticism, fascinating writers like Roust and Simoncelli, 
compelling them to wax lyrical

  • Of ruffled parrots and peacocks
 fleeing hares and fawns, 
pelicans, doves and Eucharistic lambs

  • 'Rendezvous galants’ 
in the tent of a Sheik, tales of a thousand and one nights

  • Eccentrics, divas, aristocrats flocked to buy 
capes, caftans, kimonos

  • Images to be immortalised 
by legendary photographers
 Man Roy, Alfred Shieglitz, Nadar

  • Celebrating undulating pleated silk
, which enriched Fortuny while he lived
, perpetuated his fame after his death

  • Beautiful garments, even by that magician of Venice - Fortuny, 
lend only a fleeting glamour to the bodies they adorn