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Eliodoro Ximenes: A Signature in Pirelli Advertising Revealed

Countless artists and illustrators have contributed to Pirelli’s advertising throughout its long and remarkable history. Over two hundred of them were catalogued for the release of our book, A Muse in the Wheels: Pirelli, a Century of Art at the Service of Its Products, published in 2015 by Corraini Edizioni. Yet much still remains to be brought to light: anonymous works to be attributed, signatures and initials to be deciphered, and authors’ names to be discovered. Today, the meticulous research carried out by Dario Fangaresi, a passionate and knowledgeable expert in advertising art, has enabled some of the most exquisite Pirelli advertisements from the 1920s, previously shrouded in anonymity, to be attributed to their apparent creator. These are seven drawings in India ink, or India ink and tempera, signed “Elio”, most of which are for advertisements for erasers but, in two cases, for raincoats.

These advertisements were published in 1920 and 1921 in the magazines of the Touring Club Italiano, Rivista Mensile and Le vie d’Italia, as well as La Sorgente. Rivista mensile per l’educazione della gioventù, the organ of the Touring Club Committee for school trips. This explains the playful tone of the subjects, with the presence of animals and characters like those of children’s illustrations and cinema (such as the moon in the sky in sketch no. 72, which recalls A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès). At the same time, we are in the presence of “humorous and sophisticated creations”, as Giovanna Ginex, the editor of A Muse In the Wheels, describes them, which betray the influence of European avant-garde graphics. There are numerous references, such as the bulldog in sketch no. 74, which echo the symbol of the satirical magazine Simplicissimus created by Thomas Theodor Heine, or the cat in sketch no. 75, which recalls the Der Panther poster by Lucian Bernhard of Berlin. These are the works of an artist who is witty, refined, and cultured, but who had not then been identified. Fangaresi’s investigations began with the recognition of other works signed “Elio”. There is a “Gomme Pirelli” (“Pirelli Tyres”) advertisement from 1919, now in the Collezione Salce, made for an Alfa Romeo car dealer. The lettering is identical to that of the Pirelli eraser advertisements preserved by the Foundation, with the “G” in the word “Gomma” extending like the “P” in “Pirelli”.

The Salce Collection attributes this poster to Ettore Elio Ximenes. With this as his starting point, the scholar found that the association of “Elio” with the famous artist Ettore Ximenes can also be seen in other works. However, not convinced that Elio was simply Ettore’s second name, he examined the members of the Ximenes family and found that of the seven brothers and sisters, all of whose names begin with “E”, five were artists. As well as the better-known Eduardo, who also worked for Pirelli, particularly on a lithograph for the 1881 exhibition, and Ettore, one of the greatest sculptors of his time, there were also Enrico, Empedocle, and the youngest, Eliodoro. The hypothesis, therefore, is that the signature “Elio” might well be that of Eliodoro. Support for this theory comes from a number of works that have been tracked down by Fangaresi. These are signed Elio, Elio Ximenes, and especially Eliodoro Ximenes. Examples include the header illustration for the first issue of the 1898 periodical Vomere and the illustration of the trial of the anarchist Gaetano Bresci published in The Graphic in 1900. The signature becomes shorter and shorter over time, becoming “Elio” in the Pirelli advertisements, but also just the initials “EX” or the abbreviation “Elio Xim” in a rectangle, as in some advertisements for the town of Roncegno, in the Trentino Alps, or for the Monte Carlo Golf Club. We know very little about Eliodoro Ximenes’s life beyond his place and year of birth, although this is not certain (Palermo, 1873) and of death (Surrey Northern, England, 1954). Much about this artist still remains to be tracked down and studied, but today he officially joins the ranks of Pirelli artists.

Countless artists and illustrators have contributed to Pirelli’s advertising throughout its long and remarkable history. Over two hundred of them were catalogued for the release of our book, A Muse in the Wheels: Pirelli, a Century of Art at the Service of Its Products, published in 2015 by Corraini Edizioni. Yet much still remains to be brought to light: anonymous works to be attributed, signatures and initials to be deciphered, and authors’ names to be discovered. Today, the meticulous research carried out by Dario Fangaresi, a passionate and knowledgeable expert in advertising art, has enabled some of the most exquisite Pirelli advertisements from the 1920s, previously shrouded in anonymity, to be attributed to their apparent creator. These are seven drawings in India ink, or India ink and tempera, signed “Elio”, most of which are for advertisements for erasers but, in two cases, for raincoats.

These advertisements were published in 1920 and 1921 in the magazines of the Touring Club Italiano, Rivista Mensile and Le vie d’Italia, as well as La Sorgente. Rivista mensile per l’educazione della gioventù, the organ of the Touring Club Committee for school trips. This explains the playful tone of the subjects, with the presence of animals and characters like those of children’s illustrations and cinema (such as the moon in the sky in sketch no. 72, which recalls A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès). At the same time, we are in the presence of “humorous and sophisticated creations”, as Giovanna Ginex, the editor of A Muse In the Wheels, describes them, which betray the influence of European avant-garde graphics. There are numerous references, such as the bulldog in sketch no. 74, which echo the symbol of the satirical magazine Simplicissimus created by Thomas Theodor Heine, or the cat in sketch no. 75, which recalls the Der Panther poster by Lucian Bernhard of Berlin. These are the works of an artist who is witty, refined, and cultured, but who had not then been identified. Fangaresi’s investigations began with the recognition of other works signed “Elio”. There is a “Gomme Pirelli” (“Pirelli Tyres”) advertisement from 1919, now in the Collezione Salce, made for an Alfa Romeo car dealer. The lettering is identical to that of the Pirelli eraser advertisements preserved by the Foundation, with the “G” in the word “Gomma” extending like the “P” in “Pirelli”.

The Salce Collection attributes this poster to Ettore Elio Ximenes. With this as his starting point, the scholar found that the association of “Elio” with the famous artist Ettore Ximenes can also be seen in other works. However, not convinced that Elio was simply Ettore’s second name, he examined the members of the Ximenes family and found that of the seven brothers and sisters, all of whose names begin with “E”, five were artists. As well as the better-known Eduardo, who also worked for Pirelli, particularly on a lithograph for the 1881 exhibition, and Ettore, one of the greatest sculptors of his time, there were also Enrico, Empedocle, and the youngest, Eliodoro. The hypothesis, therefore, is that the signature “Elio” might well be that of Eliodoro. Support for this theory comes from a number of works that have been tracked down by Fangaresi. These are signed Elio, Elio Ximenes, and especially Eliodoro Ximenes. Examples include the header illustration for the first issue of the 1898 periodical Vomere and the illustration of the trial of the anarchist Gaetano Bresci published in The Graphic in 1900. The signature becomes shorter and shorter over time, becoming “Elio” in the Pirelli advertisements, but also just the initials “EX” or the abbreviation “Elio Xim” in a rectangle, as in some advertisements for the town of Roncegno, in the Trentino Alps, or for the Monte Carlo Golf Club. We know very little about Eliodoro Ximenes’s life beyond his place and year of birth, although this is not certain (Palermo, 1873) and of death (Surrey Northern, England, 1954). Much about this artist still remains to be tracked down and studied, but today he officially joins the ranks of Pirelli artists.

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