1911-1914 – The incunabula of advertisement

The first tools Barilla used for advertisement promotion of which we have records are calendars. Together with window shop signs, price tags and postcards, these had the task to “furnish” the sales points.

From a few precious photographs of the interiors of the Barilla stores taken in 1914 by Luigi Vaghi we can reconstruct the iconography of these first objects – a sort of incunabula of Barilla advertisement. Unfortunately we do not have the originals of these works by local artists whose names remain unknown to this day. We know they were active in the context of the Zafferri Graphic Design Industries which were appointed to realize the draft designs by Gualtiero Barilla, who took care of commercial matters up to the year of his death in 1919.

It consists of a series of advertising boards printed in color chromatography – our replicas are monochrome since they are obtained from photographs of those years – and they were utilized to support the blocks of removable sheets of weekly or monthly calendars.

Ettore Vernizzi, a painter and decorator in Parma who was awarded the Gold Medal at the 1908 Rome Expo, in 1910 drew the large sign with the new Barilla logo which was used until the 1930s and that featured a shop boy pouring an egg into a kneading trough.

The advertising message, which was also repeated in the daily calendar of 1911 and of which we have the original, undersigned by V. Ceccanti, a Tuscan artist of which rare works are found and documented between 1908 and 1911, and the message in the calendar of 1913 as well, are explicit and immediate and it recall the symbolism of abundance and quality which is typical of egg pasta.

Around 1913 the advertisement for tortellini made use of a daily wall calendar representing a middle-class style domestic scene: a serene family scene that alongside with one of the first packaged products repeated the physiognomy types of the female characters which were dear to the advertisement of the times.
The production of tortellini was dismissed after the death of Gualtiero Barilla and this specialty appeared for the last time in a postcard and in the catalog of 1923, because of the evident problems with storage, and was reprised in the post World War II period with avant-garde quality standards starting from 1969. With the fine tuning of exclusive technologies patented in 1999, this production witnessed an important achievement.

Barilla advertisement did not remain a stranger to the important Italian historical events and in the 1914 calendar we see the echo of the colonial adventure in the land of Libia.

The table faithfully lists the advertising images published between 1911 and 1913 on the covers of Domenica del Corriere, drawn by Achille Betrame (1871- 1945). The group of Arabs, reproduced in counterpart to the originals, is taken from the cover of issue number 11 of October 18, 1911; the mosque in the background, also in counterpart, comes from the cover of issue number 9 of March 16, 1913; the figure of Italy with a flag is inspired by the cover of issue number 20 of April 2, 1911.

The unknown author, likely to have been active in the local context at the Zafferri Litograph company, developed the theme of the homage by African populations to a victorious Italy and to its technological and industrial achievements. The cross reference to the theme of colonial enterprise, the choice of a parallel to the well known image and the theme of déjà-vu had the precise purpose to emotionally involve the public, impressing the Company logo in the collective historical memories of the population.

Unknown, 1912 Barilla Calendar

1913 Barilla Calendar

1914 Barilla Calendar

Wall calendars. Parma [Zafferri?], 1911-1914, ASB, Rla 34