This sneaky but loveable green devil is one of the most famous images in vintage poster art. Leonetto Cappiello, widely regarded as the greatest poster artist of his time, maybe of all time, created him in 1906 to promote the alcoholic drink Maurin Quina.
Skulking off with his pilfered bottle of Maurin Quina, the green devil works to uncork his stolen treasure while looking behind him to see if he’s been spotted. He’s elegant (down to and including his slippers), graceful, lithe (look at his wonderful tail!) and sneaky, and we all are rooting for his success, knowing full well that he’s a thief. We can tell that from his body language and his gloating expression.
French businessman Auguste Maurin opened a distillery in Le Puy, in the Haute-Loire district of France, in 1884 and produced the aperitif Maurin Quina. It was reportedly made with absinthe, a highly alcoholic spirit traditionally green in color (probably why its most famous champion is green). Several years after this poster was published, absinthe was banned in France for its harmful effects, and Maurin Quina, as originally formulated, was no longer sold. It is produced today with a different formulation but still bearing the green devil image that has become iconic and remains a valuable, well-recognized symbol of the brand.
Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942) was born in Livorno, Italy. With no formal training in art, he started his career as a caricaturist, illustrating journals. After moving to Paris as a young man, he published several books of caricatures before he began designing posters. Early advertising posters were characterized by a traditional painterly quality. In a striking departure from this tradition, Cappiello instead used bold, brightly colored figures and designs that pop out of dark backgrounds. He is often referred to as "the father of modern advertising" because of his innovative poster designs and use of color.
This lithograph, signed in the plate by Cappiello, was printed by P. Vercasson & Cie. of Paris.
If you are a vintage poster enthusiast, then you'll want to own this poster -- regarded as one of Cappiello's best works and certainly as one of his most popular ones.