Towards the end of the 1800s, bicycles – known as “velocipedes” at the time – started to resemble modern models, mostly thanks to the “revolutionary” idea of connecting pedals to a cogged wheel which in turn connected to the chain, allowing for the front wheel – which used to be much bigger than the back wheel – to be considerably resized.
In the first decade of the 1900s, bike sales in Italy went from 200,000 to 600,000. As a means of transportation, bikes’ popularity accelerated with the beginning of the Giro d’Italia, which was launched in 1909. The most important factories in the country, mostly scattered around Milan and Turin – including iconic names like Lux, Mastrallet, Dei, Prinetti e Stucchi, Frera, and Bianchi – began investing in advertising campaigns and collaborating with talented and famous illustrators like Aleardo Terzi, Aleardo Villa, Plinio Codognato, Marcello Dudovich and Osvaldo Ballerio.
Ballerio (Milan, 1870-Azzate [Varese], 1942) was one of the most important poster artists of the early 1900s. He had graduated from the Brera Academy in Milan and is well known also for his humorous cartoons, patriotic postcards during the Cold War, and the interiors of some churches in the Val d’Intelvi, in Lombardy.
Here is a selection of his illustrations for bicycle brands.