Ceiling of the church of Sant’Antonio in Campo Marzio, Rome Ceiling of the church of Sant’Antonio in Campo Marzio, Rome Marco Varro/123rf.com

In search of modern day baroque in Italy

Exploring the modern-day legacy of Italy’s greatest design movement

by 06 April 2016

Awe-inspiring and decadent, the Baroque movement sparked an upheaval in Italian art, architecture and interiors. Visionaries such as Caravaggio, Bernini, Borromini and Richini established a style that continues to influence our contemporary definition of beauty.

Italian designers have always looked to the past for inspiration, and as part of this year’s Salone del Mobile a major exhibition – Before Design: Classic – will “tell the story of classic Made in Italy taste... a style drawn from history and [Italy’s] great taste and cultural heritage.” The Baroque has played a key role in this heritage, and across Italy many designers – from artisan furniture makers to high-end fashion houses – are keeping this glorious past alive.

Interior décor

Budri-Luxury pag-55A marble floor created by Budri for a client in Montecarlo

Baroque interiors sought to overwhelm with splendour, and recent work by Fendi Casa offers a delightful interpretation of this principle. Projects such as the award-winning Damac Residency, Dubai, take a modernist look while adhering to the Baroque philosophy of excess, with its shock of floor-to-ceiling gold.

Another brand famed for its opulence – Dolce & Gabbana – have certainly taken a cue from the Baroque for their shop interiors in places such as Milan, Tokyo, Melbourne and New York. Oversized gold mirrors, glittering Murano glass chandeliers, and sumptuous wallpaper in shades of deep red and purple, are some of the many pieces that nod to Italian heritage.

Italian craftsmanship, meanwhile, is being preserved by the likes of Budri, a marble-inlay specialist in Northern Italy creating floors which recall the palatial beauty of an Italian villa. Their work – which spans more than half a century – derives from a legacy of inlayers and mosaicists. It also embraces a contemporary approach driven by innovation, exemplified by their 2015 Papiro Collection in collaboration with Patricia Urquiola.

Related: What Made in Murano means today


218 Fendi-Casa Sloane-Sofa Making-OfCasa Sloane sofa by Fendi

One furniture maker whose works carries the stamp of the Baroque – dramatic curved lines, fine materials and exquisite, eye-catching details – is the Tuscan-based Valderamobili. Since 1976 the company has been making elegant collections with a strong Baroque emphasis. The Luigi XVI (Louis XVI) collection, for instance, bears overt references to the Palace of Versailles – one of the most iconic exemplars of Baroque design. Richly upholstered chairs and gleaming wooden armoires are among the signature pieces.

Another noteworthy brand is Orsitalia, designing Baroque-inspired furniture since 1972. Founded by Angelo Orsi, the company has been modernised by the creative influence of Angelo’s children Carla and Oscar. This next generation is ‘valuing the Baroque world that characterises our history’ while pushing the boundaries with contemporary touches, such as the use of unexpected materials (think fur) and striking colour combinations.

Related: De Ponte Studio Architects at Milan Design Week


2versacehomeGlassware in the Versace Casa collection 2016

Home accessories have long been a way of introducing a hint of 17th century glamour to the living space. Versace’s current homeware collections chime naturally with the Baroque, unabashed as they are in their classical motifs. The Medusa Lumière, a collection of crystal glassware, contains the head of Medusa locked in its long stem. Meanwhile pillows, sheets, robes and towels are equally ornate, with many available in a ‘Barocco’ print of black, white and gold awash with floral and Corinthian illustrations.

Vismara Design is another Italian specialist producing Baroque collections of furniture and homeware. These include accent pieces such as decorative columns, vases and braziers. One of the most intriguing pieces in their Baroque collection is the ‘amphora’ vase inspired by the curvaceous vessels used to store wine in ancient Greek times. Meanwhile, the braziers feature a removable bio-alcohol burner and tempered glass so that real fires can be lit without electricity.

Classic design at the Milan Furniture Show: Curious to explore more classical inspiration for today's designers? Visit Salone del Mobile 2016: Interpreting the Classic, Quatiere Fiera Milano, Rho 12 - 17th April 2016 www.lartdevivreonline.com