Cappiello, inexplicably, had no formal training in art. First gaining attention as a caricaturist for Parisian humor and culture gazettes, he followed up the pioneering poster exploits of Jules Chéret by taking the exact opposite approach. Rather than take a painterly route, with detailed backgrounds and such, Cappiello’s best works give us bigger-than-life figures bursting with emotion, or unforgettable weirdness. By re-imagining products as Iconic Characters, and delivering that big burst of energy into the viewer’s experience, Cappiello became known as “the father of modern advertising.” From Tony the Tiger to Joe Isuzu, all of the great ad pitchmen have a bit of Cappiello in their DNA.
Cappiello was never one to shy away from utilizing the absurd to draw attention to a product, as can be seen here in his six-legged buyer of Unic, deluxe shoes for men. A very different design would be created by Cassandre for the company 19 years later, in which we are presented with just a pair of shiny brown lace-ups (see PAI-LI, 217).
Red hair like an undulating flame appears in the midnight blue, illuminating the Seine, Eiffel Tower and the rooftops of central Paris. “Le bec renversé” can be variously translated as “beak” or “spout,” and it’s an alternative form of gas lighting in which the flame – from a Bunsen burner or Auer burner – would illuminate noncombustible materials, such as thorium nitrate and cerium oxide, producing a bright white light from the glow, far brighter than the gas flame could make itself. “The spout,” therefore, “gives the Sun at home for nothing,” making this one of the earliest ads you’ll ever see for energy-efficient lighting, and certainly one of the most emotionally evocative ever. This version has tip-on “S.V.E.” over the word “MARS.”
The gala is in full swing, and this lucky gadabout has the good fortune to have not one, but three ladies swanning about him, in a delightful riot of colors and textures. It’s a charity ball raising funds for the unemployed and the poor, but Cappiello knows that altruism alone rarely sets wealthy feet a-tapping; the sweeping reds and draped furs carry an altogether more amorous connotation. This is the larger format.
A giant, overlord-like red face with a wicked scowl-smile looms over a woman, who, big bottle of cider in hand, cheerfully dismisses the patriarchal threat. This delightfully over-the-top study by Cappiello was accomplished in gouache & crayon. It arrives from the archives of Cappiello’s longtime printer, Devambez, and comes with the stamp of the Atelier Cappiello on verso. One of a kind.
This version of Cappiello’s Cioccolato Venchi, with its immense size – nearly 9 feet high – is previously unknown to the poster art world. One of the most purely delightful promotional images in history, Cappiello’s composition – leaping, spilling, tumbling, dancing – is the epitome of candy’s effect upon taste buds and children’s excitement levels. Cappiello created two posters for S. Venchi & Co. Chocolatiers, which was founded in 1878 and remains based in Turin, Italy, with American storefronts in Eataly bazaars in New York, Chicago, and Boston. This is an extremely rare two-sheet billboard.