Edina Altara: first-class luxury on the Rex

In 1932, Edina Altara illustrated the brochure meant to advertise the Rex – the largest Italian ocean liner in its day (and until 1991), built in the Ansaldo shipyard in Sestri Ponente and launched at the presence of King Victor Emmanuel III on August 1, 1931. The goal of the Sardinian artist was to seduce the wealthy class of Fascist Italy.

In 1982, Francesco De Gregori dedicated a song to another famous liner – the British Titanic, which had sunk in 1912, almost twenty years before the Rex was launched. The words of the Italian singer-songwriter paint a fitting description of the brochure’s target audience: “E con l’orchestra che ci accompagna / con questi nuovi ritmi americani, / saluteremo la Gran Bretagna / col bicchiere tra le mani. / E con il ghiaccio dentro al bicchiere / faremo un brindisi tintinnante / a questo viaggio davvero mondiale, / a questa luna gigante” (“And with the orchestra playing for us / these new American rhythms, / we will say goodbye to Great Britain / with a glass in our hands. / And with the ice in the glass / we will make a clinking toast / to this world-wide journey, / and to this giant moon”).

Edina Altara (1898-1983) designed the Rex’s elegant brochure with her husband, Vittorio Accornero: she drew all the people, he was in charge of backgrounds and landscape.

Her 36-page, Art Deco style booklet is a refined and skillful testimony to the luxury of first-class journeys on this magnificent ship.

Unfortunately, luxury and magnificence have never kept ships afloat. The Rex, like the Titanic, sank – albeit under very different circumstances: the RAF bombed it in 1944, near Trieste.

These wonderful drawings immortalized its splendor and allow us to imagine a different time, decades later.

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