Alfa Romeo Mille Miglia poster

I first stumbled upon a picture of this lovely Vittorio Jano designed Alfa Romeo 1750 some years ago in an Italian Alfa Romeo book, and wanted to use the image as reference for a new poster. But I needed some background information about the car’s achievements to feed me ideas how I might build the design, and not being an Italian speaker I looked to the internet. And here I found a wonderful story about the 1930 Mille Miglia event in which the charismatic Italian driver Tazio Nuvolari (pictured on the right) cheekily overtook his great rival Achille Varzi, also driving an Alfa, by sneaking up in the dark with his headlights turned off, only turning them back on after he had passed Varzi. Of course, I couldn’t resist using this excellent yarn as the basis for my design, despite the fact that eyebrows are raised among the cognoscenti as to the accuracy of this version of events. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

The Coppa delle Mille Miglia is run over a figure of eight course starting out from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia; a distance, as the name suggests, of close to a thousand miles. And after sixteen hours of racing Nuvolari beat Varzi by seven minutes to win the race.

This particular poster has been my most popular design by a considerable distance and is still selling well. If you’d like further details of this and other posters in my collection you can find them here.

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Bal De La Couture Parisienne

I love this poster. I got a real kick out of producing it, and it was one that, as an illustration, just fell nicely into place. The lines and the composition flowed beautifully in the original sketch. I am not for one moment (Heaven forbid!) suggesting that this process was easy, as there was a great deal of research went in before committing to the design. But once the concept was developed the image almost designed itself. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the girl’s face (whose gaze follows you around the room) and then it circles that area for a while following the line of the hat before being led down to the text by the broad line of the gentleman’s white scarf. The girl is clearly the star of the show and the silhouetted figure of the gentleman is very much in a supporting role. I am also pleased with the fact that there is something a little enigmatic in the expression on the girl’s face. We cannot quite tell if she is happy to be on the arm of the doubtless wealthy but shadowy gentleman. Is that expression one of comfortable contentment or is it perhaps a trifle uneasy?

I stole the idea of the yellow lights from a Toulouse-LautrecToulouse-Lautrec_-_Moulin_Rouge_-_La_Goulue poster from 1891 of the dancer La Goulue at the Moulin Rouge, shown on the right. (“If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.” Who said that, I wonder?) ‘La Goulue’ (meaning, would you believe, ‘The Glutton’, real name Louise Weber) was the most famous quadrille dancer of her day and a regular performer at The Moulin Rouge, The Moulin de la Galette and other famous Parisian venues of the time, with her dancing partner Valentin-le-Décossé (seen in the foreground).

I did experiment with many different type designs before I felt that I had got it right, but I just knew when it was. The lettering is a hand drawn, original font, unique to me, although based on exsisting type styles of the period.

The text is taken from an original Bal De La Couture poster of 1925, (shown below) designed by Georges Lepape two years earlier than the date featured in my design, so the details are correct. Note the price of admission: 100 francs. It’s my guess that in 1927 100 francs was a great deal of money, so the ticket price must have pretty much guaranteed to the guests that they were unlikely to be rubbing shoulders with any of the Parisian riff-raff once they stepped inside the Theatre des Champs-Elysees.

BDLCThe magnificent art deco structure of the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, opened in 1913 as a venue for contemporary music, dance and opera, in contrast to the more conservative Paris Opera. In its first season it hosted the Ballet Russes, staging the world premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring on May 29th, an event which became notorious for the ensuing riot amongst the audience.

A revival of the fashion ball has, in the last twenty years, been combined with the tradition of the debutants ball by Ophélie Renouard as Le Bal des Débutantes, in which the daughters of former celebrities, aristocrats, artists, politicians and others are dressed by haute couture and couture fashion houses in order to promote their reputations and products. This event was first held in 1992 at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris, which continues to serve as the venue to this day.

You can find full details of this poster here.