Aleardo Villa, women and Costa Rica


Regate Pallanza, 1897

During the Belle Époque, Aleardo Villa’s women – so many of them, and so beautiful – smiled at Italy’s cities from postcards and billboards.

Women started crowding advertisement posters in the decades straddling the 19th and 20th century, conjuring up a growing number of desires and dreams in the urban population. A graduate of Milan’s Brera Academy – born in Ravello, Campania in 1865 and died in Milan in 1906 – Villa often collaborated with Officine Grafiche Ricordi, for example creating the wonderful poster ads for Grandi Magazzini Italiani Mele.

But his marked preference for female portraits went beyond commercial art: Villa was often inspired by young ladies’ faces and profiles in his paintings, which he liked to set well apart from his work in advertisement (which he considered “elementary painting”).

A little known fact is that to this day he is quite famous in Costa Rica: he painted the ceiling of the Teatro Nacional in the capital city San José, with an evocative scene dedicated to coffee picking that is cherished by the locals despite a few minor mistakes (for example, the tropical plant is represented near the seaside while in fact it grows on plateaus). Indeed, it is even reproduced on the “cinco colones” banknote.

March 6, 2017