IT WAS THE FACE that launched a thousand home accessories. When, as the story goes, Milan-based artist and designer Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988) spotted the beestung lips and Mona Lisa-esque gaze of Belle Epoque opera singer Lina Cavalieri in an old magazine, he saw opportunity. Before long, he was recasting and tweaking her image, reimagining her as a vixen, a bandit and a deep-sea diver in an array of Surrealist motifs on dinner plates, paperweights, teacups and bathroom tiles.
From the 1940s to the 1980s, Mr. Fornasetti spun out a prodigious collection of other illustrated pieces, applying crosshatched Piranesi engravings to lacquered secretaries, drawing fossils on tabletops and concocting trippy cityscapes from images of playing cards on paneled screens.
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