In Italy in 1911, a poster by Marcello Dudovich caused a sensation for the Borsalino house, celebrated manufacturer of hats for men. Its luxury productions, marketed under the brand name Zenit, they exemplify like none other the atmosphere of an exclusive world that would soon disappear with the outbreak of World War I. Dudovich’s poster, with a predominance of yellow tones, shows a rococo chair with a bowler hat, a pair of men’s gloves and a cane. What are those accessories doing there? Who is the owner? For the elegant and refined environment, everyone understood what it was: they are evidence that a man of good standing (evidently a respectable bourgeois, a married man, one of the pillars of society) has gone to visit a femme-de-monde (his secret lover, luxury prostitute or kept woman). He will have hung his coat on a rich coat rack, or handed it over to the courtesan’s maid, after which, with the familiarity of who will be encountered in friendly and acquainted ground, he has left his belongings on the chair, including the exclusive Borsalino hat, and is ready to indulge in a pleasant evening.
At the origin of the modern commercial poster the image of the woman was used and abused. Many times the product was absent, and the only claim was the female figure, meandering and seductive. At the beginning of the twentieth century Germanic poster makers, such as Lucian Bernhard, create the Sachplakat or object poster: simply draw the product and the commercial brand on a neutral background. Dudovich’s finding in this poster consists of dispensing with the figure but maintaining its evocative presence. The chair, which occupies most of the image, is only a stand to highlight, like a trophy, the hat of elegant men who lived an existence of luxury and pleasure. Shortly after this world of the Belle Époque gave way to other realities to which the posters of Marcello Dudovich adapted.