Set of Twelve Piero Fornasetti Plates in Four Frutti Pattern, #1 in Series. Courtesy of Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge.

Few design objects are as immediately recognizable as Piero Fornasetti’s (1913-1988) ceramic plates. They are boldly graphic and deliciously surreal, boasting an array of trompe l'oeil motifs that range from fish and flowers to the face of Lina Cavalieri -- a nineteenth-century opera singer. But Fornasetti did not stop at ceramics. Between the 1940s and the 1980s, the Milanese artist and designer created over 13,000 works. He churned out furniture, fabrics, and a swathe of decorative objects -- from trays and paperweights to screens and umbrella stands -- emblazoned with his distinct and irreverent designs.

Fornasetti is the subject of a major retrospective currently on view at the Louvre’s Les Arts Décoratifs, in Paris. Curated by Fornasetti’s son, Barnaba, a designer who took over the family business after his father’s death, Practical Madness charts Fornasetti’s creative evolution. The show features over 1,000 objects from Fornasetti’s archive, including early paintings and prints, a vast array of decorative objects, and furniture that Fornasetti created with the Italian architect Gio Ponti.

Cocktail Table, Piero Fornasetti, circa 1950. Courtesy of Objects20c.

The masters of Italian design met at the Milan Triennale in 1933, where Fornasetti was exhibiting his work, including painted silk scarves, which caught Ponti’s eye. Fornasetti and Ponti went on to collaborate on numerous projects, including designing the interiors of the magnificent transatlantic ocean liner “Andrea Doria.” One of Fornasetti and Ponti’s most significant joint ventures was the Architettura line of furniture, which the pair exhibited at the 1951 Milan Triennale. Practical Madness features pieces from this legendary collaboration, including the seminal Architettura Cabinet (1951).

Although Fornasetti’s works often reference past styles and historical motifs, their boldness, elegance, and charm ensures that they are right at home in the modern world. Fornasetti’s popularity continues to grow and thanks to Barnaba, who relies heavily on his father’s extensive archive when creating new objects, the inimitable designer’s singular style continues to attract and inspire new audiences.

Practical Madness, which is the first retrospective ever devoted to Fornasetti in France, is on view at Les Arts Décoratifs through June 14, 2015.