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.
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.
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.
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.
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.