These two posters were produced on the occasion of the first and the third editions of the Coppa della Perugina, a motor race organized by the Umbrian chocolate producer Perugina, founded in 1907. The author, Federico Seneca, was one of the most renowned illustrators and graphic designers of the Fascist period. The two posters depict a racing car and are reminiscent of Futurist aesthetics, in their graphic representation and celebration of speed and dynamism.
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Federico Seneca started collaborating with Umbrian confectionery producer in 1919. When the manufacturer invented a praline and called it ‘bacio’ (‘kiss’), Seneca contributed to its growing popularity, by designing an advertisement which would become an icon: two black silhouettes of 19th-century lovers kissing against the blue background, inspired by Hayez’s painting Il bacio. In 1924 Perugina, ecouraged by the success and growth of its business, decided to organize and sponsor a rally, which was named Coppa Perugina, and commissioned the posters for the event from Seneca.
Motoring and racing in those years were part of the mythology that Fascism was building around ideas of modernity, technological progress, speed, as well as a Fascist moral code based on audacity and braveness. Means of transport which afforded men increased mobility and the opportunity to overcome limits hitherto experienced by men, like cars and airplanes, were celebrated and integrated in the image Fascism aimed to project of itself as a modern, technological, dynamic, and aggressive regime.
Seneca never joined the Futurist movement, but in some of his posters from the 1920s, notably those created for the Coppa della Perugina, he clearly drew on Futurist aesthetics, to convey effects of speed and dynamism in the depiction of its subjects. In particular, he seems to be inspired by the work of Gerardo Dottori (see, for instance, the Trittico della velocità). In both posters we see only details of the cars from original perspectives (from above, from one side), which emphasize the impression of movement and speed. The effect the posters create is that of snap-shots, in which the object portrayed was moving so fast that it was impossible to get it in the picture in its entirety, and in focus. The human figures are reduced to spots of colour, making the cars the indisputable protagonists of the pictures. The sketched elements of background (the racetrack, the grass, the trees) are only there to intensify the representation of speed. In the first poster, the red shape of the car, the white racetrack and the green grass also compose an Italian flag, giving the poster a nationalistic nature.
These posters are an original application of Futurist aesthetics and Futurist themes to advertisement, developing a set of themes which were equally celebrated by Fascism and Futurism: speed and dynamism, modernity, the bravery and audacity of men who conquer new grounds, the excitement and thrill that comes from overcoming human limits. It is significant that Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, when he visited the Perugina factory in 1928, signed the visitors’ book and left the following comment: 'Bravo Seneca mangifico futurista del Cartello-Reclame!’.
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Ossanna Cavadini, Nicoletta, Dario Cimorelli, Marta Mazza, and Luigi Sansone (eds). 2016. Federico Seneca (1861-1976), segno e forma nella pubblicità. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale.
Villari, Anna (ed.). 2008. L’arte della pubblicità: il manifesto italiano e le avanguardie 1920-1940. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale.