Leonetto Cappiello made his name during the advertising poster boom period in the early 20th century. He elevated the advertising poster from the street to the level of fine Art.
By transgressing artistic traditions of the Belle époque, he liberated the poster from its constraints and pushed it in a totally new direction that would transform graphic art and the publicity during the 20th century.
Cognac Pellisson, Père & Co
1907 – Leonetto CAPPIELLOSold
Campari Cordial liquor
1920 circa – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
Colors and a strong concept
Cappiello’s method was based on visual surprise: the poster’s image visually leaps out before the eyes and easily attracts the attention of passers-by. The poster's strength was in the simplicity of the image and it's reduction to an essential message.
On the Campari poster, a jester leaps out of an orange to capture the onlooker's attention. Its vivid colours on a black background makes it even more visible in an urban landscape.
Imagine it, two meters high, decorating a street corner! It would certainly not go unnoticed.
Campari. Bitter Campari, the medium Orange Peel (Jester)
1921 – Leonetto CAPPIELLOSold
In the same line of thinking, a devil temptingly uncorks a bottle of Quina vermouth fortified wine, while in a different poster, another figure, clown-like, probably inspired by Pantalone from Commedia Dell'Arte, spits fire, inviting to buy the heated thermal plaster, Thermogène, a cough cure.
His style was to use a strong starting concept, together with dominant lines, curves and intense colors.
He used historical characters, animals, clowns, masked faces...etc, often from the Comedy Dell'arte, contrasted against a colorful or black background. These characters were used to sell all sorts of products and events.
Maurin Quina, Le Puy
1906 – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
Le thermogène engendre la chaleur et combat: toux et rhumatismes, 1949 late autorized edition
1949 – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
Le Thermogène engendre la chaleur
1949 circa – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
For Cinzano, Cappiello reused his idea for Chocolat Klaus, but this time with a red zebra and and a Roman senator wearing a toga, making a reference to the Italian origin of the product.
The red recalls the color of vermouth, which together with the green background makes up the colors of the Italian flag. The zebra symbolizes the 2 colors of Cinzano drinks, red or white, to attract attention.
The red Cinzano zebra would be reworked by several other artists such as Savignac or Nico Edel.
Sometimes the link between the image and the product was more evident; the red beard of a Russian to sell a brand of vodka or a priest who rings a bell to signal time for the Angelus prayer, and also time to drink an Angelus, an Italian alcoholic drink.
1925 circa – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
Angelus, Liqueur des Salésiens de Dom Bosco
1907 – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
It is often women who are shown offering a glass of Contratto Champagne, or tinned Barbier-Dauphin tomatoes.
Contratto, Cannelli, vermouth
1925 – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
1922 – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
Conserves Barbier Dauphin
1948 – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
He also used historical figures, such as the King of Spain for Agua de Vilajuiga water, François the First for beer or the brother of Louis XIV for Champagne.
For the beer 'Fort-Carré, Cappiello represented Francois the First, who seems very satisfied with its taste. This is a reference to a battle of 1544 in the town of Champagne. Legend says that Francois the First drank a beer there and was very pleased by the welcome of its inhabitants.
Agua de Vilajuiga
1912 – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
Bière du Fort-Carré, anno 1544
1911 circa – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
Crémant du Roi, Veuve Amiot, grands vins mousseux
1922 – Leonetto CAPPIELLO
For Amiot Champagne, Cappiello depicted a mannered portrait of Monsieur, the brother of Louis XIV dressed in court costume with all its frills and ribbons. Monsieur greatly appreciated a glass of champagne and tells us with a snobbish gesture.
Champagne has always had a strong link with royalty, since, according to legend, the celebrated glass of champagne shown on this poster had been moulded from the breast of the Marquise de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV. Whatever the slight anachronism present in the poster, this glass did not exist at the time of Louis XIV. What was important to Cappiello was the link between champagne and royalty, the idea of luxury, of celebration, even the hint of decadence offered by the snobbish image of Monsieur.