This poster from the 1920s has been mesmerizing generations of poster aficionados. Created by the popular French poster artist Jean D’Ylen (1886-1938), it is an advertisement for an upscale Belgian store, Maison du Porte Plume (loosely translated as “The House of Fountain Pens”), selling expensive pens and ink.
The eye is first drawn to the center of the picture in which a figure (possibly a girl, possibly a boy – we’ll assume he’s a boy) is miniaturized so that he is smaller than the giant pens and ink bottles surrounding him. He is dressed in attire reminiscent of that of a court jester, but he certainly is not behaving as a court jester. Rather, he strikes a nonchalant pose: his legs are crossed, his right arm is resting on an ink bottle, his left arm is outstretched, palm up in a casual gesture, and five pens are leaning against him. He is looking up and his mouth is open, as though he is talking to someone above him (remember, he has been shrunk to a size smaller than a fountain pen!) – perhaps extolling the virtues of his pens.
But the purpose of this poster is to sell pens (and, to a lesser degree, ink), and D’Ylen has not forgotten this. The boy is actually just an interesting, quirky theatrical prop who is there to hold the life-sized pens upright so the viewer can see their exquisite designs and elegant details and their lovely pointed tips displayed in the foreground. How much more visually effective it is to show them this way than, for example, as small pens held in a person’s hand. In presenting the pens this way, D'Ylen has designed a poster that itself is elegant and exquisite, as well as very clever. It’s not a surprise that he is so highly regarded as a poster artist and that this poster is so famous.
This lovely, nostalgic poster will appeal to all who appreciate the bygone era of fountain pens and ink as well as all who appreciate the intimate view of a moment in history that vintage posters such as this one uniquely provide. You will enjoy owning it and admiring its masterful design and message from the past.