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.
Commissioned by the same company whose shoes inspired Cappiello to create one of his greatest designs (see PAI-LX, 129), this arresting image is for the brand’s tire division, and features the Devil himself attempting to take a bite out of the indestructible product.
“Fernand Charron, who won the first Gordon Bennett cup in a car of his own design in 1900, eventually took over the Automobiles Charron firm and manufactured large, comfortable—and expensive—sedans. The closed cab shown in the poster was the natural automotive evolution from a carriage design—it was very popular with the aristocracy as it exuded elegance and luxury. All of this is reinforced in Cappiello’s design, showing an elegant lady giving directions to her driver before entering the cab. The frame around the image, including the title plate, suggests that the Charron automobile is a masterpiece” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 90).
“Although Gautier is one of France’s oldest cognac distillers, there’s nothing old-fashioned about this ebullient eyeful bringing forth her vineyard-fresh bounty. You’d think that she’d appear at least slightly burdened beneath the heft of these hardy bunches as she trips the vine fantastic; the knowledge that she’s delivering a taste this enormous, however, keeps the spring in her step. This enterprise, which survives to this day, was established by Guy Gautier in 1697… Gautier’s success was partly due to the fact that he sided with the insurrectionists in one of the religious wars that took place in his time; when they won, he was named governor of the Cognac province, and he in turn passed its name to the brandy he had produced” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 103).
This image was originally produced to promote Lampe Faust, and “We can only wonder what motivated the manufacturer to use a name associated with the forces of darkness for a light-emitting product. When the same image is used for another product of the same company with the neutral name Lampe Osmine, however, the visual impact of the image alone should suffice to engage your imagination” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 121).
Playing on the old saying that if you can sprinkle salt on a bird’s tail, then you can catch it with your hand, Cappiello presents us with a wonderfully charming ad for Perla salt. He manages to capture the inquisitiveness of childhood as well as the beguiling power of nostalgia—we are both remembering being that little boy while also finding his actions adorably naïve. This image is printed on silk—and it’s rare!
“An outrageously flirtatious young maiden admires a cadet who apparently rolls his own smokes with Le Riz Bleu cigarette paper—a delectable scene by Cappiello executed in a caricature style approaching out-and-out illustration… The Riz Bleu cigarette paper firm was founded in 1901 in Angouleme by Charles Lecroix; the enterprise lasted a little over ten years” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 174). Rare!
Cappiello gives us a joyful and enchanted image of dancers emerging out of the clouds in a dreamlike scene. Clearly, the environment is festive; despite some of the men getting a little frisky, the action seems to be in goodhearted fun. The rendering is less caricaturistic for Cappiello and feels more so like a film still from the golden age of Hollywood. This image was reproduced as a two-spread in the 1919 edition of Fantasio magazine.
“In Cappiello’s later years, caricature, now more polished and refined, makes an appearance every now and again. This second poster for Cachou Lajaunie, a breath freshener to counteract the effects of her cigarette, gets our attention with a woman in a startling dress decorated with large sequins in shades reminiscent of autumn foliage” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 196).
This Vichy spring water in Saint-Priest-Bramefant is recommended for stomach diseases and anemia; the text here reads,”If you care for your health, drink the mineral water Vercingétorix.” The curative properties are so alluring that even this gentle beast is willing to sit in repose while his tamer drips Vercingétorix into his open mouth. It’s a classic Cappiello move to conjure such an absurd scenario and transform it into brilliant advertising. This is the only known copy—rare!!
“This startling design of two tigers fighting for a bottle of Porto Pitters—which just happens to have a trademark with a tiger’s head—is one of the best examples of Cappiello’s ability to shock us into remembering a product” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 286). Rare!
“Bagnères-de-Luchon is a year-round resort in the Pyrenées, and the high-altitude Superbagnères is where serious skiers converge. To entice winter throngs, Cappiello gives the public a picture of young skiers having fun on the slopes. Their colorful attire adds to the wholesome interest that the area evokes” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 292).