Dandy, Dreamer, Designer, meet Franco Maria Ricci
An unparalleled aesthete. The refined elegance and beauty of publisher and designer Franco Maria Ricci’s creations are rooted in his established art forms of images, letters and lines. A cultural dandy and dreamer of labyrinths, Ricci was a lover of beauty. He infused refined Italian elegance and a certain cleverness into everything he touched. The large, practically quadrato (square) format of Ricci’s books, including Labrinto delle Masone and Mantova Utopia Classica, are a clear representation of his incomparable style.
Quintessential design for the desk
On the ISSIMO bookshelf is FMR’s latest piece inspired by neoclassical architecture, the Franco Maria Ricci 2021 Agenda, encompassing all the quintessential “FMR” elements and more. The typeface, a direct nod to his idol, typographer Giambattista Bodoni, is grounded in well-defined vertical rows embraced by a sea of white, emboldened by the juxtaposition of dramatic black backdrops. Magnificent pictures which absorb whole pages are prominently sheltered in between. This profusion of stunning graphic design is pure Ricci. As avid fans at ISSIMO, we couldn’t think of a better way to journey through 2021 than with FMR as our daily guide.
The birth of iconic design
Visionary, publisher, collector, editor, artist and race car driver, Franco Maria Ricci’s life was a world filled with script and images. The charming Parmense (Parma native) had a career which spanned close to six decades. It all began after a chance encounter with Bodoni’s Manuale tipografico, published in 1818, which Ricci discovered in the ‘60s in the halls of Parma’s Biblioteca Palatina (the Palatine library). He became infatuated with the passageways, caves and labyrinths which make up the Romagna region’s underground architecture, passing his free time in secretive escapes. A fortuitous design project with Parma University’s theatre festival enabled a meeting with an art curator from the US and thus began his career in graphic design. He worked with a number of Italy mainstays like Alitalia and Le Poste (Italian post office) while continuing his work as an Italian art publisher, artist and philanthropist.
Exploring Ricci’s larger than life labyrinth
While Ricci’s extraordinary collection of artwork and notable library are living testimony to his pure love for all things fascinatingly creative, it is perhaps Il Labirinto del Masone, the world’s largest labyrinth created out of approximately 20 specimens of bamboo, which is his true lasting legacy. The amazing octagonal star-shaped maze, located a short drive from Parma, has captivated visitors since it’s unveiling in 2015. Ricci spent over 10 years on the project which spans 7 hectares. The use of the sustainable bamboo along with the creation of the adjacent museum and cultural centre, touches upon his philanthropic desire to help restore and beautify the Po valley landscape. The museum is home to his personal art collection spanning the 16th to 19th century, including 500 paintings, sculptures, and small artifacts, along with temporary exhibitions.
For close to 40 years, Ricci was editor of the sophisticated FMR, a bi-monthly art magazine which incorporated writing and artwork by notable authors, artists and close friends including Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Roland Barthes and others. For Jackie O, “it was the most beautiful magazine in the world” and Fellini likened it to a “black pearl.” An Italian cultural icon, Ricci’s love of beauty knew no bounds and his artistic endeavours will forever continuously inspire.