Giovanni Guerrini, II Mostra Internazionale delle Arti Decorative, 1925

May 17, 2018

The poster, based on a drawing by Giovanni Guerrini (Imola 1887-Rome 1972) has been printed in occasion of the 2nd International Exposition of Decorative Arts, a biennial exhibition held in 1925. It was organized at Monza's Villa Reale by Guido Marangoni, who belonged to the Consorzio Milano-Monza Umanitaria; the aim of the exhibition was to showcase the excellency of Italian craftsmanship. The exhibition was eventually moved to Milan in 1933, where it was held every three years at the Palazzo dell'Arte, and became known as the celebrated "Triennale di Milano", one of the most important venues for the exhibition of decorative arts, industrial design and modern architecture.

Known for the design of the EUR's Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in Rome, along with Ernesto Bruno Lapuada and Mario Romano, Guerrini studied at the Academy of Fine Arts both in Faenza and in Florence, where he worked alongside the symbolist painter Alfonso De Carolis. Guerrini was an architect, a painter, and an engraver; two years before this poster, he had already designed the catalog cover of Monza's first International Expo.

For the 1925 edition, over two hundred artists took part in the contest to design the exposition poster, and all the entries were showcased in an exhibition. In his project for the poster, Guerrini proposed an image that recalls the Déco style popular at the time, which was celebrated that very year at the Universal Expo in Paris. The general Déco overtones are mediated by Art Nouveau influences in the representation of the subject: a naked woman pours water from a cornucopia, in a plant that recalls a palm, while two gazelle admire the scene in a serene atmosphere characterized by a blue sky and golden shades to mark the ground. The inscriptions in the lower part of the poster inform onlookers about the location and dates of the Exposition, from May to October. This same drawing was also used, with different colors, in the advertising booklet for the Expo, for the admission ticket, and for commemorative non-postage stamps used at the time to seal envelopes instead of sealing wax. A further elaboration of this subject, still signed by Guerrini, was also used for the cover of a small book dedicated to the history of the Exposition, on stamps and postcards, a testimony of the large number of graphic design products that were conceived at the time to promote the event. Additional postcards and non-postage stamps were printed from a drawing by the bolognese artist Francesco Dal Pozzo, while the catalog cover was based on the drawing by painter and engraver Ugo Ortona. The majority of the artists that took part in this contest were also involved in other aspects of the Exposition—Guerrini, for instance, exhibited a few items of home decor in 1925. This illustrates the great versatility of these artists in adapting to different situations and contexts (a further confirmation of this fact can be found in the 1927 poster of the Expo, signed by Marcello Nizzoli).

The presence of this artwork in the Collection of the Fondazione Cirulli is particularly important for its typology—the advertising poster of an exhibition—but also for its context of origin: the Monza Biennials, that is to say the first and most important occasions in which decorative arts were shown and circulated in 1920 Italy.

[1] On the topic, please see: A. Pansera, Storia e cronaca della Triennale, Milan, Longanesi 1978; 1923 – 1930. Monza. Verso l’unità delle arti. Oggetti d’eccezione dalle Esposizioni internazionali di arti decorative, edited by A. Pansera and M. Chirico, Exhibition Catalog (Monza, Arengario, 14 marzo- 9 maggio 2004), Monza, SilvanaEditoriale 2004; Giovanni Guerrini. Poeta dell'immagine, edited by E. Colombo Guerrini Roma, Servizi tipografici Carlo Colombo 2010.


Elisabetta Modena