The collection of medical advertising of the University Museum of Chieti

An archive of images from the second half of the 20th century
Costume del medico

The University Museum of Chieti has a small but interesting collection of graphic materials used in medical advertising of the second half of the 20th century. The post-war transformation of pharmaceutical laboratories into factories led to the increase in canned drugs to the detriment of galenic formulations. The continuous discoveries in the pharmaceutical field led to an ever-increasing production and marketing of medicinal substances.

In 1960, 80% of sales concerned drugs that could be sold on the basis of a medical prescription. It is, therefore, natural that the marketing of pharmaceutical companies was directed in a targeted and continuous way towards doctors with the production of ad hoc materials.

The formation of the collection

Some of the materials come from the collection of Vincenzo Grilli (1881-1968), a municipal doctor who practiced in the city of Chieti after the First World War. A second part –much more substantial– is made up of material from the early 1950s, which belonged to David Sgandurra (1914-1994), health and medical officer in the municipality of Farindola (PE). The two collections offer an insight into the advertising of the propaganda press that the numerous pharmaceutical companies sent to the municipality doctors.

The Grilli collection

The collection of the municipality doctor from Chieti gathers a miscellany of materials from 1938 to 1960. The oldest images (1938/40) were produced by the Limas Vaccine-Therapy Institute in Milan.
Giorgio Zoja‘s Pharmaceutical Chemical Laboratory in Milan, on the other hand, sent in 1940 a monthly propaganda press bulletin with a series of 16 tables, in black and white, with details of Giotto’s works.

In the same years, the Roche company also sent Grilli advertising with works of art, but with a medical theme, and Maggioni SpA chose reproductions of works of art with a postcard format, coping drawings by famous authors (1948/49). Unlike the other materials, those of Maggioni were characterized by the replication of a handwritten message, on the back of the postcard, addressed to the doctor with the evident intention of giving a personalized and therefore more persuasive effect.

A. Angiolini & Co. sent, instead, a series of caricatural watercolours (Faentine artistic lithographs) to advertise a series of medicines.

Litografie artistiche faentine
Faentine artistic lithographs – Campi S., Dentista, A. Angiolini & Co., 1950

Carlo Erba Co., at the end of 1954, submitted, as a tribute to the doctors, the 1955 calendar with the theme “Doctor’s Costume, series I, Ancient Ages”, of which Grilli kept only the individual tables made by the artist Ercole Brini (1913-1989). From 1952, Grilli carefully gathered up the Lepetit collection with the 6 plates of the Avicenna Canon. The themes varied according to the drugs to be promoted: in 1957 for the antibiotic Vulcamicina it sent a series of colour plates with the eruption of Vesuvius, proposing a curious affinity between name, image and type of pathology to be treated.

Panel on the “Veduta del cratere del Vesuvio, anno 1775"
Image of Veduta del cratere del Vesuvio, anno 1775 to promote the antibiotic Vulcamicina, Lepetit, 1957
The Sgandurra collection

The largest advertising group preserved by the doctor from Farindola (PE) is the one sent by the chemical-biological pharmaceutical plant Doc. A&M Giuliani.
The Genovese Biotherapy Institute (1959-1961) also sent works by artists who worked in Genoa; and, of the same type, Farmitalia’s gadgets with works by Magnasco, Longhi, Raffaello, Monet and contemporary authors.

Immagine dell’opera La gravida, Raffaello Sanzio (1483-1520)
Image of the work La gravida, Raffaello Sanzio (1483-1520), to promote the drug Farlutal, Farmitalia, 1959-1961

In the collection, there are images of the history of Medicine with biographies of doctors edited by the V. Baldacci Pharmaceutical Chemical Laboratory of Pisa; images of the books of Hours or – of a completely different kind – of dog breeds for the Maestretti SpA Pharmaceutical Laboratory and many other materials with reproductions of contemporary works of art printed by the Milanese Biotherapy Laboratory in 1956.

In the same year A. Angiolini & Co. SpA sent leaflets suggesting Italian artistic itineraries.
The Fism Biochemical Laboratories of Milan, however, carried out a refined operation, sending a series of 20 original woodcuts, commissioned to the artist Aldo Patocchi.

Xilografia Fuochi di primavera
A. Patocchi, Fuochi di primavera, woodcut, Fism Biochemical Laboratories of Milan, 1956

Finally, among the materials, there is the proposal by Parke Davis Italia SpA which sent a series of prints entrusted to the American artist Robert Thom (1915-1979).

The promotion of the collection

So far, the Museum has carried out a research project aimed at studying and cataloguing the 690 materials. Today it wants to optimize the management and use of the collection through its easy consultation by the adoption of computerized systems. This iconographic archive has many potentials and it is well suitable to broadening horizons of knowledge from a medical, historical, artistic point of view; and even in relation to the social, cultural and market values that the dissemination of images has promoted.

In addition, the Museum is planning further enhancement strategies for the collection through the creation of educational, editorial and exhibition opportunities.

Antonietta Di Fabrizio

Antonietta Di Fabrizio

Graduated in Biomedical Laboratory Techniques in 2003. In 2011, she obtained the 1st level University Master in Protection and Management of naturalistic and historical-scientific heritage Museums and Collections. Since 1999, she has been working at the “G. d’Annunzio” University Museum of Chieti-Pescara where she manages the archive of museum’s goods, the office of the museum’s general secretariat and the relationship with users, and coordinates initiatives with schools and cultural events. Since 2019 she has been an employee of CINECA.

Alessandro Rapinese

Alessandro Rapinese

He graduated in Political Sciences at the University of Teramo in 2014. In 2014, he obtained the 1st level University Master in Science Communication at the University of Padua. Since 2013, he is a collaborator of the “G. d’Annunzio” University Museum of Chieti-Pescara, where he works to cataloguing historical-scientific objects. Since 2018, he has been an employee of the Biblos Cooperative.

Jacopo Cilli

Jacopo Cilli

Graduated in Archaeology from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice in 2011, he holds a Ph.D in Physical Anthropology from the “G. d’Annunzio” University of Chieti-Pescara in 2018. Since 2020, he is a research fellow at the same university with a study project on ancient human remains from Abruzzo region. Since 2011, he is a scientific collaborator of the “G. d’Annunzio” University Museum of Chieti.

Maria Chiara Capasso

Maria Chiara Capasso

She obtained master's degree in Architecture and she specialized in Interior Design. She is freelance in the world of Exhibition, Interior and Graphic Design. She is AFAM professor of Service Design at the ISIA of Pescara and of Interior Architecture at the Pantheon Institute, in Rome. Formerly a research fellow (Teramo University), currently, she is PhD student at the Department of Architecture in G. D’Annunzio University, Chieti.

Alessia Fazio

Alessia Fazio

She graduated in Primary Teacher Education at the University of L’Aquila in 2002. Since 2010 she has been working at “G. d’Annunzio” University Museum of Chieti-Pescara where she carries out educational activities for schools of all types and levels, and ludo-didactic activities. Since 2019, she has been an employee of the Biblos Cooperative.