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.
“Cappiello did not create as many posters for his native country, Italy, as one would have assumed. But those he did are among his most noteworthy achievements. This one, for a magazine of ‘Music and Musicians,’ published by the famous music publishing and printing house of G. Ricordi in Milan, was, like all other such commissions, handled by Vercasson but printed in Italy. The face may be partially obscured, but the sincere concentration of the violinist is clearly shown in a cleverly conceived composition” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 52). Rare!!!
“An oversize bottle of Evian-Cachat mineral water is the centerpiece of a typically exuberant Cappiello design. Legend has it that an ailing nobleman from Auvergne, Marquis de Lessert, experienced relief from a kidney condition after drinking water from the Cachat Spring at Évian in 1789, which established the spring’s reputation. Bottling began in 1830; the company was incorporated in 1859, with shares sold to the public for the first time in 1926. The Badoit company was purchased in 1965; Évian is now part of the Danone Group. Évian takes it name from the Celtic word ‘evua’ which means ‘water'” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 162). Rare!
“Floravene Gravena was a cereal made from cocoa and oats; it’s the oats that attracts the horse, who is apparently not above racing his own jockey for the delicacy” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 69). Rare!
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).
Starting right around 1912, advances in food preparation and storage were transforming how people cooked and ate. But for the French gourmand—steeped in the thousand-year history of the French corner bakery—prepackaged tinned biscuits appeared a little suspect. Cappiello’s brightly hued poster aimed to persuade consumers otherwise. An obsequious shop-hand stands in the midst of a tower of biscuit tins, offering one to an ostentatiously elegant lady, and we are assured these confections are “Practical, Advantageous, and Assured Fresh.” Cappiello went on to design many other posters for Paquet Pernot, which was likely a result of nailing this brief.
“For Rozan chocolates, it’s four bells and all is well—at least the youngster seems to enjoy noising about with his gigantic hand-held carillon. The business was incorporated by Mr. Rozan in 1921 at Oloron-Ste. Marie, in the south of France near the resort town of Paul” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 200). Ultimately, the company merged with the more famous Chocolate Menier company.
“The monastery that developed the Dentifrices des Bénédictins formula is located on a mountain in the old town of Soulac, a small village on the coast near Bordeaux. The monks actually made the product at one time, but in 1880, a decree forbade religious orders from most commercial activities, so a pharmaceutical firm took over the production. To keep this tradition alive, Cappiello shows a dandy from another era admiring his shiny teeth in a hand mirror” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 231).
Cappiello masterfully depicted animals in his designs; in the case of this image for Jako, Cappiello ups the ante by personifying the parrot with an apron as she goes about her household chores. His flamboyant style and keen understanding of advertising is clear: the bird is not just an attention-getter, but a viable sales pitch for the product—a general use household cleaner with a gentle bleaching agent meant to whiten and brighten every square inch of your abode. For good measure, there are vignettes showing its use for dish washing, bathroom cleaning, and clothes laundering. It’s both charming and effective.
When M. Revel founded his Lyon-based umbrella company in 1851, one could purchase his wares in both silk and cotton. While the subject matter may seem slightly ordinary, the poster is one of Cappiello’s most ingenious and delightful designs. As effective as it is simple, one sees “the umbrellas braving the storm like black ships’ sails. All the elements of fine poster design are here: bold shapes, strong contrasts (the background is a surprising sunny yellow), tight yet lively composition, unusual perspective—and no more detail than necessary” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 236). Although the company closed its doors in the 1950s, this poster remains a testament to its once brilliant advertising campaign. This is the six-sheet version of the poster.