Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942) is known as the “father of modern advertising,” with his revolutionary take on the advertising poster. Breaking with his predecessor at the printing house Vercasson, Jules Chéret, Cappiello largely did away with painterly backgrounds and personified the product with a brash, idiosyncratic character bursting out from a flat background.
“The mission of this orange-haired dancer was to attract visitors at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair to come to the Folies-Bergère…. Cappiello chose a variant of the can-can dancer from his first Frou-Frou poster of the year before. Still rooted in his early caricature style, it is nevertheless an excellent poster, with its flat colors and eye-catching quality. The image was also issued in an edition of 100 copies, before letters (of which this is one), and an extremely limited silk edition of only 10 copies. Although all contemporary references make it clear that the Frou-Frou poster was Cappiello’s first, a black-and-white flyer was issued which proclaimed this to be ‘The First Poster of Cappiello.’ It is not clear if this was also issued in 1900” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 39).
Cappiello produces an absolutely euphoric solution for the auto manufacturer Sizaire (which existed in various forms of Sizaire-Naudin and Sizaire-Berwick between 1903 and 1930). Their competitive advantage was independent suspension; Cappiello expresses this in perfectly Gallic fashion, with blue wings swirling about the red chassis as if a Fighting Cock with limbs in a blur. Rare!
In contrast to the deeply-colored, almost mystical image Cappiello created for this brand in 1906, the artist gives us this light-hearted social scene 23 years later. The subject and composition bear a similarity to Cappiello’s “Le Bas Revel,” also created in 1929, an ad for hosiery for the Revel company. Here, the hedge behind the drinkers, all a-fury in the wind, creates a kind of energetic vortex in which the two female tipplers are blown away by the fresh minty taste of Menthe-Pastille, while the waiter side-eyes them.
The gala is in full swing, and this lucky gadabout has the good fortune to have not one, but three stunners vying for his affections: a silver-haired sophisticate, as well as a flame-tressed and blonde-locked duo of coquettes. The prominence given to solid reds indicates the richness of the support for this worthy cause – raising funds for poor and unemployed workers – and possibly hints at the time to be had by all. This is the smaller format.
One of the most famous images in the history of posters, this was produced for the Revel umbrella company of Lyon. It was so successful, Revel commissioned Cappiello to produce a similar treatment for ladies’ hosiery (see PAI-LXXIII, 232). How could it fail to impress? If you listen carefully, you can hear the music of its composition: a rain-dance, in arpeggios. When this went on the walls, a 10-year-old Gene Kelly must have been watching: and listening, and splashing about in a puddle. This is the one-sheet version of the 1922 printing. This auction also features (No. 190) the three-sheet 1929 printing, est. $3-$4,000, which is 10’3″ tall.
22 x 30 1/2 in./56x 77.6 cm
Provenance: Devambez archives. This maquette, with its big spoon and candy-striped sprite, we nearly named “Soup’s On!” The Cappiello Estate, however, tells us this is a maquette for Blédine, a French manufacturer of infant foods, cereals and porridges still in operation today. It’s unlike virtually other design for Blédine we’ve seen (along with other expressions by Le Monnier and d’Ylen) as it eschews the obvious and familiar territory of chubby little children, and instead takes a cue from the Object Poster, concentrating on the strongly recognizable form of the Blédine tin cylinder.
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