This original vintage poster by the renowned poster artist Leonetto Cappiello shows the brilliant image of a beautiful, stylish woman, head tilted jauntily up, holding a cigarette and exhaling smoke, eyes closed in an expression of sublime relaxation. And while one might think this is a poster advertising a popular brand of cigarettes in an age when women were starting to smoke as a badge of sophistication, this is actually a clever ad for the little yellow tin of throat lozenges (cachaou) which she holds up in her left hand and which were developed by a pharmacist, Leon LaJaunie, as a medicinal lozenge and mint breath freshener.
For a century, this poster has commanded attention and admiration not because of its message but because of how Cappiello pioneered, with such effectiveness, the use of bold, contrasting color. The woman’s enchanting dress made of red, orange and yellow feathers (or maybe leaves or sequins), her bright red hair, the yellowish wisp of smoke wafting up from the cigarette, her yellow-tinted skin tones, the poster's yellow wording at the top and, of course, the little yellow tin of throat lozenges appear in dramatic contrast against the very dark black background. This is a poster you will never tire of studying, as it’s a visual masterpiece.
Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942) was born in Livorno, Italy. With no formal training in art, he started his career as a caricaturist, illustrating in journals. After moving to Paris as a young man, he published several books of caricatures before he began designing advertising posters. Early advertising posters were characterized by a traditional painterly quality. In a very dramatic departure from this tradition, Cappiello instead used bold, brightly colored figures and designs popping out of dark backgrounds.
During the period between WWI and WWII Cappiello worked principally in Paris and produced more than 500 advertising posters. These distinctive posters continue to be admired today and valued by collectors and art historians alike. He is often referred to as "the father of modern advertising" because of his innovative poster designs and use of color.