Plinio Codognato and Fiat: the femininity of cars
The great illustrator Plinio Codognato (Verona, 1878-Milan, 1940) put his creativity – inspired by the themes of speed and communication – at the service of Fiat in in 1923, starting a long collaboration with the famous car manufacturer in Turin.
In his drawings, the cars of the new Technological Age hailed by Futurists zipped by, between statuesque motorcycle riders, winged lions, and rapacious eagles.
He composed a score of images that echoed with the stentorian lyrics of “La Cinquecento e Nove”:
Sbocciato è un nuovo fiore / dall’officina immensa, / creato dal fervore / di una ricerca intensa (“A new flower has bloomed / in the immense workshop, / created by the fervor / of intense research”).
Fiat used verses by Giuseppe Adami and music by Riccardo Zandonai (who had honed his craft under Pietro Mascagni) to advertise its famous 509, the model that – according to legend – convinced D’Annunzio to start officially using the Italian word ‘automobile’ as a feminine noun in 1926. Once the poet had made up his mind, linguists and lexicographers who had debated and been undecided until then could finally consider the matter settled.
And after all, the popular anthem was quite clear about it:
A tutti dà sé stessa, / elimina distanze, / per tutti ha una promessa, / realizza le speranze. // In ogni casa impone / il suo dominio, altera! / Eppur risponde al nome / di piccola e leggera (“She gives herself to everyone, / vanquishes distances, / has a promise for everyone, / and makes hopes come true. // In everything she imposes / her dominion, and change! / Yet she answers if you call her / small and light”).
This is obviously a car that could never be anything less than feminine.