Three World War I Patriotic (Anti-German Militarism) Italian-American Chromolithographs. New York: Italian Book Co., 1918.

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La Fucilazione del capo.jpg
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Title

Three World War I Patriotic (Anti-German Militarism) Italian-American Chromolithographs. New York: Italian Book Co., 1918.

Description

These three chromolithographic prints or, given their location in the Princeton Poster Collection of the Smithsonian, posters, perhaps issued as a set, depict respectively the trial, execution, and burial of German militarism in the form of the Kaiser. In each, Uncle Sam stands staunchly with the civilized nations of Europe while the Kaiser gets his comeuppance. Italia, personified as a green-white-and-red-robed woman, stands prominently in the mid-ground of each composition. In the last one, the Kaiser's body is consigned to the flames of Hell, while a wild-eyed devil reaches out to greet him.

The large (21" x 25") prints, poster-sized if not posters (they are not issued on heavy stock posterboard), in similar artistic style, were published by the Italian Book Company. (A smaller version of at least the "Uncle Sam," last of the three, was also issued in cartoon on silk, also printed in color, approximately 14 1/2" square.)

The images within borders at the top and bottom contain captions in the top and bottom margins either just in Italian (the first two) or in English and Italian (the last of the three, the "Uncle Sam" print). The thematically first of the three is captioned "La condanna a morte del Kaiser [Condemnation to death of the Kaiser]" at the top, and "Il verdetto dei giurati del mondo [The verdict of juries of the world]" at the bottom. The second is captioned "La fucilazione del capo degli Unni [The execution of the chief of the Huns]" at the top, and "La morte del militarismo [The death of militarism]" at the bottom.

The third print's or poster's captions state "Uncle Sam is ready to bury the chief of the barbarians" at the top, and the same sentiment in Italian, "Uncle Sam è pronto a seppellire il capo dei barbari" at the bottom. Only this last print bears the imprint of the Italian Book Co.

The first two prints are signed by the same artist with the initials "R.A." at lower left, but without the imprint of IBC or otherwise. That perhaps indicates a retention of copyright in the artist in his first two paintings turned into chromolithographic prints, before ceding that right to the IBC for the thematically last one. The IBC drove hard bargains on copyright issues, discussed in my essay on this site, "Italian American Book Publishing and Bookselling." That might also explain why, alone of the three, the "Uncle Sam" has its caption in English as well as Italian, attempting to reach children of immigrants who became more fluent in English than in Italian.

No artist with the initials "R.A." appears in Regina Soria's American Artists of Italian Heritage, 1776-1945: A Biographical Dictionary (Rutherford, NJ, 1993) or in Ario Flamma's Italiani di America (New York, 1936), q.v.

The three may have celebrated the successful conclusion of the First World War, though the date simply of 1918 makes that unclear (Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies on November 11, 1918). In bold colors, the prints  or posters were presumably created to drum up U.S. patriotic sentiment within the Italian immigrant community in America, whether during the war or at its end. 

Only "La condanna a morte del Kaiser" is listed contemporaneously as for sale in the Strenna Almanacco Anno 1919, q.v., one of the two most expensive (at $.75) of "quadri novità [novelty pictures]" for sale.

One institutional holding is noted in OCLC - at the University of North Carolina, where the three prints are catalogued together, providing support for the thematically linked idea (and similar artistic style) causing the presumption that they were issued as a set. Two of the individual images are, as noted earlier, in the Princeton Poster Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. No others appear to be located in either public or private collections.

Publisher

Italian Book Co.

Date

1918

Format

Approx. 53cm x 64cm

Citation

“Three World War I Patriotic (Anti-German Militarism) Italian-American Chromolithographs. New York: Italian Book Co., 1918.,” Italian-Language American Imprints: The Periconi Collection, accessed September 26, 2022, https://italianamericanimprints.omeka.net/items/show/541.

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