For Piero Fornasetti a single idea provided a pretext to develop others. He gave full vent to his imagination to the point where most of his work is based on infinite variations on a number of themes. Among these the most recurrent are the sun, playing cards, harlequins, hands, self-portraits and so on, but the most famous, the one that he himself called "Theme and Variations", published in a tiny precious book, is the enigmatic face of a woman. He found it as he leafed through a 19th century French magazine and it's said that the woman in question is Lina Cavalieri. Perhaps he chose it for its archetypal classic female features, resembling a Greek statue, enigmatic like the Mona Lisa and consequently capable of being moulded into the idea he was developing inside his head. With great modesty all these works were reproduced on a series of everyday objects like plates, ashtrays, umbrella stands and trays. It began as a series of six white plates decorated with black and white designs. It continued spontaneously and increased in the course of the years until the series reached 350 different variations on the theme of the classic beauty.

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