This advertisement was produced by Sironi for Fiat in 1936, to advertise the new low-cost model Fiat 500. The poster displays an adaptation of Sironi’s monumental, anti-realistic style to graphic design. The Fiat 500 is associated with the she-wolf, Romolus and Remus, symbols of imperial Rome.
The Sacralisation of the New Man’s Total Politics through the Arts
Shaping the New Man’s Reality by Fashioning National Myths
Monumentalism: Visualising Subjectivity and Objectivity
Cars and motoring constituted one of the myths promoted by the regime, centred on ideas of speed, technology, modernity, and travelling. However, in the Fascist period both Fiat and the regime were also trying to shift common ideas about cars towards a more domestic and reassuring image, to encourage a more widespread use of the car, no longer connected to luxury, privilege and risk, but to comfort and an accessible modernity. The Fiat 500 was a low-cost model that Fiat produced since 1936, in line with the company’s and the regime’s attempts at expanding private motoring and car ownership to social classes which were excluded from it until then, pursuing a massification of car usage which should be functional to the modernization of the nation. The Fiat 500 was soon renamed ‘Topolino’ (‘little mouse’ in Italian, but also the name for Mickey Mouse) because it was one of the smallest cars in the world at the time.
In terms of themes, Sironi decided to associate the new Fiat model to quintessentially Fascist, imperial and national myths, like he did with all the art forms he experimented with. One of these is the foundational myth of Rome, expressed in the she-wolf that breastfeeds Romolus and Remus, the twin brothers who founded the city of Rome, constituting the most prominent element of the poster. The other one is the myth of work and workers, central to Sironi’s poetics, which is expressed here in the slogan: ‘la vetturetta del lavoro e del risparmio’ (‘the small car of work and economy’), alluding to the cheap price of the car model, which should make it accessible to the lower classes. This makes for a very austere advertising style, which is emblematic of the convergence between commercial advertising and the regime’s construction of a national image as an imperial, monumental, dominant, and modern nation, which marked the 1930s and early 1940s.
The graphic style is also monumental and austere, and draws significantly on Sironi’s personal brand of Novecento style. The figures and objects are simplified, anti-realistic, and monumental; the she-wolf and the twins, standing out against the black background, look like a statue, and the writing Fiat 500 looks like it is carved in stone. The colours are dark and gloomy, contributing to the austere nature of the poster. Sironi brought his poetics and unmistakable style to advertising, which he saw as a popular form of art that could establish a straightforward and privileged relationship with the public a concern which was at the centre of his artistic work and which he expressed chiefly in his exploration of mural art forms (see murals). It can be argued that exploring advertising art was part of Sironi’s commitment to a modern form of art, which he saw as inextricably tied to the Fascist regime, which should be national, solemn, anti-subjective and popular, i.e. easily accessible and comprehensible by everyone (Villari 2008, 33).
Coradeschi, Sergio and Ippolite Rostagno. 1987. ‘The Novecento Style in Italy: Commercial and Graphic Design.’ The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 3 (Italian Theme Issue): 66-83.
Pontiggia, Elena. 2000. ‘Mario Sironi. Il sogno della pittura murale.’ In Scritti e pensieri, edited by Elena Pontiggia. Milano: Abscondita.
Villari, Anna (ed.). 2008. L’arte della pubblicità: il manifesto italiano e le avanguardie 1920-1940. Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale.