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.
One of the main selling points of the Mele department store was that the average woman could obtain high-fashion style for a relatively low dollar figure. Coined “bourgeois realism,” posters like this design by Cappiello showcase attainable glamour and elegance without making it seem pedestrian or cheap. Here in particular, Cappiello captures that moment of pure self-satisfaction as a woman finds the perfect dress to make her stand out in a crowd. This is a two-sheet poster.
“Fleur des Neiges is one of the products of Biscuits Pernot; since it means ‘snow flowers,’ Cappiello creates a verbal association by giving us two lovely ladies worthy of the name, their scarlet coats like blossoms in the vast whiteness. Their placement at the bottom of the vertical design with a snowy landscape allows the artist to create a brilliant impression reminiscent of classical Japanese prints of similar configuration” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 83).
This charming little slice-of-life moment reveals the more daring of the two girls introducing the other to the joys of Marquisette dessert liqueur. It’s a delightful scene played out on this larger, two-sheet version of the poster. This is a two-sheet poster.
“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).
“It’s the incongruity—the wild exaggeration—of the woman struggling with an oversized potted lemon tree that gives the design its unmistakable Zeste. Attention must be paid. This is the first of three designs by Cappiello for the Fournier-Demars distiller; they also called on him to advertise their Triple-Sec in 1907 and their regular Curacao in 1921” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 91).
This is the extremely rare 2-sheet format, without the bottom two sheets that displayed the product’s name. “It is with this poster, printed in 1903, that Cappiello firmly established himself as the master of the modern poster—if not modern advertising itself. He begins to slowly distance himself from caricature, not only in preoccupation but also in its form. With a newfound flamboyance of style and imagination, the artist pursued the posterist’s goal with a clarity and purpose that was to set him apart from all his colleagues. A green lady on a red horse… to sell chocolate! Preposterous! Precisely! So very preposterous, so very incongruous in fact, that the message would be indelibly etched in the consciousness of the viewer. So powerful was the graphic message that it became the trademark of the Chocolat Klaus company—and remains so to this date. With this poster, Cappiello declared—for all future posterists and commercial artists—a new freedom from the restrictions and limitations of the previous realist and idealized realist renderings” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 66). Only one other copy of this printing is known to exist.
Chicory, that wonderful rich flavoring for coffee, is being sold at La Belle Jardinière, a department store in France—which is why Cappiello has this beautiful gardener trailing a basket of blossoms as she steps forward with a caffeinated spring in her step. La Belle Jardinière is also the name of a famous 1507 painting by Raphael—which may have inspired the proprietors—and the department store clearly embraced the visual arts, as seen by Grasset’s beautiful calendar (see PAI-LXXVI, 285).
One of Cappiello’s most popular designs, this image was used repeatedly by the company in various formats. At the time, anyone in a turban was referred to in the vernacular as a “Turk,” resulting in Café Martin being commonly known as “the Turk in the cup.” This is the rare, large format version of the design.
Cappiello sure did love the imagery of fruits in excess: his 1919 Confitures Foucault employed a similar harvest pour; in his 1907 Cognac Gautier Frères, the oversized vineyard bounty is shouldered by a gleeful lady; his 1904 Liqueur Cordial-Médoc shows a woman emerging from a lush wall of grapes. While there is no vineyard or liqueur company association with this work, the plentiful harvest is just as promising. Cappiello originally gifted this work to executives of the Damour advertising agency.
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 larger three-sheet version of the poster.