Published in the early 1920s by Devambez, the Paris agency for whom Cappiello worked almost exclusively after the First World War, they came to light from a house in Bedfordshire, having been bought by the vendor’s mother in Paris in the 1960s for just a few francs a piece.
Consigned to specialist firm Onslows (25% buyer’s premium), they were huge: while most Cappiello designs were printed on sheets measuring 1 x 1.4m, the old French paper standard known as the Double Grand Aigle, these measured a mighty 13ft x 8ft 2in (4 x 2.5m) each.
All were well-known designs that epitomise the Cappiello aesthetic.
He was the first poster artist to use bold figures popping out of dark backgrounds and the first to appreciate that it did not matter if the chosen subject had no direct link to a product. It was through simple, memorable images and vivid colours that consumers came to quickly recognise brands.
For a 1923 poster produced for mineral water company Royat, Cappiello chose a diaphanous lady in white floating against a royal blue ground as she empties a bottle.
The text reads Royat, C’est la santé, C’est la Jeunesse [It’s Health, It’s Youth] plus Dans une atmosphère de Radium – the latter a reference to a once popular additive thought at the time to have curative powers.
This poster, that like the others will require conservation costing several hundred pounds, took £4200 on November 25.
On the 1923 poster for Delices Ferrand & Renaud, the central character, a fairy, is shown leaping out of a box (the product, macaroni and vermicelli, is not visible).
It sold at £2050, while £3200 was bid for the 1924 image of a dancing girl holding up a bottle of Alcool De Menthe Ricqlès against a fiery red ground. Also estimated at £400-600, the poster sold to the same US buyer underbid by a Dutch museum.