Dario Bernazzoli, gasoline and an amaranth Topolino

“Oggi la benzina è rincarata, / è l’estate del quarantasei, / un litro vale un chilo d’insalata, / ma chi ci rinuncia? A piedi chi va? / L’auto: che comodità!” (“The price of gasoline increased today, / it’s the summer of ’46, / a liter costs as much as a kilo of salad, / but who can give it up? Who wants to go on foot? / Cars are such a convenience”!).

Paolo Conte’s beautiful song is the ideal soundtrack for the advertising posters by Dario Bernazzoli (1908-1999), the great Genoa-born designer and painter who founded the notable Studio grafico Firma in 1956.

Bernazzoli worked for many important companies – Italsider, Ansaldo, Morteo, to mention but a few – including Società Italo Americana pel Petrolio (also known as Siap, and Esso Standard Italiana after 1950), for which he created the posters showcased here.

In 1946 the war was barely over, and Siap – which had been requisitioned by the Fascist regime five years earlier, like all other “strategic” companies belonging to the American group Standard Oil – was derequisitioned. Activity resumed but the company was back to the drawing board, since almost all production plants had been destroyed or seriously damaged.

Despite the increase in the price of gasoline, people needed to start driving again.

Conte, one of Italy’s most famous singer-songwriters, sings to a “blonde” who is travelling with him. While the ruins of a bombed city roll outside, he tells her “don’t look outside the window / there’s something wrong in the landscape: / the storm has just ended / and six out of ten houses went down; / it’s best to just open the roof / and look up with your big eyes; / drink up this high blue sky / that looks like it’s made of enamel / and runs with us” (“non guardar dal finestrino / che c’è un paesaggio che non va: / è appena finito il temporale / e sei case su dieci sono andate giù; / meglio che tu apri la capotte / e con i tuoi occhioni guardi in su; / beviti ’sto cielo azzurro e alto / che sembra di smalto / e corre con noi”).

He was at the wheel of an “amaranth Topolino”, as the title of his extraordinary song declares.

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