It is impossible to separate the birth of the Italian poster from the opera, the only national cultural institution in Italy at the turn of the century. Italy's greatest early lithographer was Ricordi, the music publisher of Verdi and Puccini, which began to print posters to promote its operas. In the 1870s Ricordi bought the latest German presses and hired a gifted German artist, Adolfo Hohenstein, to train a staff of Italian artists.
Hohenstein's charming La Boheme was the first great Italian opera poster. It reveals the artist's absorption of French poster art, particularly Cheret, in its playful and carefree depiction of Bohemian life in Paris. Yet in its classically rich color harmonies and use of strong diagonals to increase dramatic impact, the poster shows traits which would increasingly distinguish Italian poster art from other national traditions. Indeed, La Boheme was the first in a string of increasingly large and masterful opera posters Hohenstein would create at Ricordi before returning to Germany in 1906.