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Italian Poster Masterpieces Revisited

Italian Poster Masterpieces

vintage poster, Dream Waltz
Leopoldo Metlicovitz, Sogno d'un Valzer, 1910.

vintage poster, Tosca
Adolfo Hohenstein, Tosca,  1899.

vintage poster, Italian opera
Leopoldo Metlicovitz, Giulio Marchetti, 1907.

vintage poster, Fiat Rampa
Giuseppe Riccobaldi, Fiat Rampa, 1928.

vintage poster, Borgoni
Mario Borgoni, National Hotel - Cairo, 1905.

vintage poster, Mele, Italian fashion
Marcello Dudovich, E & A Mele - Stoffe Confezioni Alta Novita, circa 1910.


 

International Poster Gallery proudly celebrates its 15th anniversary on Newbury Street with a dazzling selection of posters from our world-leading collection of Italian masterpieces.  We've assembled a line-up of rare and beautiful Italian posters advertising travel, opera, food and beverage, transportation, and propaganda.

In 1995, we premiered the first major gallery retrospective of vintage Italian posters in the U.S., "The Italian Poster Rediscovered."  The exhibition helped to establish the lesser-known Italian poster in the ranks of the best poster art of France, Switzerland and Germany.  Fifteen years later, we're once again celebrating the rare and increasingly popular Italian poster with this special anniversary exhibition. 

The best-known Italian posters advertise one of Italy's most distinctive cultural institutions - the opera.  Oversized, richly melodramatic and explosively colorful, the opera poster captures the very essence of the Italian spirit.  The exhibition headliner, Sogno d'un Valzer, or "Dream Waltz" of 1910 by Leopoldo Metlicovitz was created to promote the operetta of the same name.  It is known as one of the most romantic and passionate posters of all time, and is a classic example of Italian Art Nouveau.  An officer and his lady dance a waltz while a violinist plays intently.  The poignant message of "love lost" is clear when one realizes that the officer is but a specter fading into the poster's misty background.

The emotional intensity of Metlicovitz's poster and its deep, rich color is matched by Adolfo Hohenstein's 1899 Tosca, a 10-foot high tour de force that depicts the dramatic climax of Puccini's opera.  Bathed in a sea of red blood and dark shadows, this poster perfectly echoes the passion and spectacle of the Italian opera. 

Hohenstein, a German-born production designer, came to La Scala in the 1870s to design sets and costumes.  As the director and artistic master of the Ricordi printing operation, Hohenstein saw a meteoric rise as the unlikely 'father of the Italian poster."

A lesser-known but spectacular opera poster features one of the most extraordinary lithographic color harmonies in the genre.  Metlicovitz's oversized 1907 Giulio Marchetti, advertising a comic opera company, presents the iridescent jade-green of the subject's robes against a lush grape background. 

This recently-acquired rarity was the first Italian masterpiece sold at the gallery 15 years ago, and this exhibition marks the first time it has appeared on the market since then.

The show also features a premier lineup of transportation posters - advertising ocean liners, automobiles and airlines.  Highlighting this category is Giuseppe Riccobaldi'sFiat Rampa, 1928.  Italy's leading automobile manufacturer, Fiat recruited the greatest names in Italian poster art to bring excitement to the brand. 

Riccobaldi, who began his career as a stage designer, caused a sensation with this clean, sculptural design.  Inspired by the spiral ramp leading to the test track on the roof of Fiat's massive Turin factory, this coveted masterpiece is a prime example of Italian Art Deco design.

The opening of several inter-alpine tunnels around the turn of the century made travel to Italy much easier, and stimulated beautiful designs for tourist destinations like Lakes Garda and Como, Amalfi, Sorrento, Florence, Rome and Siena. Perhaps most spectacular from this era is another uniquely colored Italian poster, created for the newly opened National Hotel in Cairo from 1905.  Unsigned but most likely designed by Hohenstein's Neapolitan contemporary Mario Borgoni, it features an explorer mounted on a camel surrounded by a stunning sunset over the pyramids.

Italy has also produced some of the most beautiful fashion posters.  Perhaps the most well-known is a series of posters for the Neapolitan department store E. and A. Mele, which commissioned about 185 large format poster designs between 1900 and 1914.  Marcello Dudovich, often considered the greatest fashion poster artist of all time, created no fewer than 14 designs for Mele. 

One of the most elegant dates from around 1910 and portrays a nattily-clad equestrian posing his pug for two admiring friends at the stables.  Mele was instrumental in promoting aristocratic lifestyles and fashion to the rising middle class in Italy.

Due to the sheer scale of Italian poster art and the depth of International Poster Gallery's holdings, featured exhibition pieces will be rotated continuously.  Returning visitors are rewarded with newly featured posters on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis, while specific works in the gallery's extensive collection are available for viewing on request. 
    

View all Italian posters

 

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