Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942) is known as the “father of modern advertising” for his revolutionary vision of the promotional poster. Though he studied under the great Jules Chéret at the printing house Vercasson, he eventually broke away from the established aesthetic spawned by the Impressionists and developed his own style: flat backgrounds, bold and saturated hues, and animated scenes that nearly burst off the page.
The French love affair with perfume—so mysterious, so serious, so studied by the masters of Grasse—gets a playful twist in Cappiello’s work for J. Daver Perfumes, as the rose-hatted, rose-dressed madame gleefully drips a few drops of the scent upon her feather boa, becoming enraptured. It’s a private moment, reflecting the idea that the anointment is a gift to oneself. J. Daver continued to create exotic scents well into the 1920s and beyond; his most memorable were d’Autrefois, de Dentelles, and de Léonard.
“L’Avenir was a newspaper started in February, 1918, while the First World War still raged on, under the name Oui. When it was all over, in November of that year, it was decided that the paper, which was launched as a competitor for the ever-popular Figaro, would take on the name L’Avenir de Paris at the start of 1919. The poster shows Marianne, symbolizing France, revealing a sunny future for the paper—as well as for the country now freed from the burdens of war. The paper lasted until 1936; peace only three years more” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 192). Rare!
“While waiting for a table, the exquisitely-togged fashion plates adjourn to the bar where they sample the specialty of the house, Apéritif Americano Poccardi. Without revealing the dining area, Cappiello has managed to convey the atmosphere of graceful style that you are certain to find there” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 239). Poccardi had several restaurants in Paris, and Cappiello created posters for all of them (see Cappiello/Rennert 374 and 376). This is Cappiello’s preparatory work for the poster, which was rendered very faithfully to this painting, though the word “apéritif” was later added.
Cappiello has often employed the sunburst effect as a graphic motif, but here it functions almost like a radiant halo that reflects light onto the bottle of liqueur. It’s also a reference to the miracle of Faverney: in 1608, burning oil lamps caught fire at the abbey on a Sunday night. The next morning, monks found the church filled with smoke and flames surrounding the altar—but the monstrance they’d left out was now floating above the altar, and supposedly remained in suspension for 33 hours. Cappiello most certainly borrowed the form of this Catholic vessel to promote the “wonderful liqueur.”
“What could be more evocative of warmth and comfort than a cat luxuriating by a heater? Cappiello even creates the ‘radiant heat’ effect with an unusual sizzling red border on both sides of the image for La ‘Radiante.’ This design for Arthur Martin’s ‘radiator for the chilly’ is all the more impressive because of its -sheet, [nine-and-a-half] feet size” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 278).
Cappiello had great success with the well-known Parapluie-Revel (see PAI-LXXXIX, 181)—a cascade of three umbrellas for the Revel apparel company of Lyon—so Monsieur Revel asked him to help out with a new line of hosiery. Cappiello’s cheerful, leggy assortment picks up from the cancan kicks of Montmartre days, converts the assemblage into a five-pointed star, and makes the ladies cheery rather than titillating—although the lasses continue to blush. This is Cappiello’s masterful preparatory work for the final poster.
In this maquette for a poster that, as far as we know, was never published, the master employs one of his favorite techniques: manipulating scale. The oversized bottle makes its statement for superior quality and flavor, while the small touches—a filigree of olive branches, patterned carpet slippers, and a splendid tasseled fez on the swarthy figure—give the design just the right accents of texture.