• U.S.

Art: Masters & Maternity

3 minute read

The best known picture magazine in Europe, France’s L’Illustration, is famed for its handsome four-color reproductions of Old Masters. Readers flipping through an issue two months ago came upon what at first glance looked like a splendid reproduction of Raphael’s famed La Belle Jardiniere, now in the Louvre. A second glance shot eyebrows high. The Virgin Mary was feeding the infant Jesus from a modern nursing bottle, while at her knee the infant St. John looked on hungrily. The whole parody was an advertisement for Nestlé’s baby food. A line at the top of the page indicated that this was the first of a series of full-color parodies exploiting the beauties of maternity and Nestlé’s food in the manner of famed Old Masters. Weeks passed, but no further parodies appeared in L’lllustration. Last week U. S. admen, whose reputation for blatancy is supposedly worldwide, had the full story of how a French firm had been obliged to backtrack on a super-blatant advertising campaign.

The Société Française Nestlé, makers of chocolate and prepared baby foods, claims complete independence of the parent company in Switzerland “except for the exchange of friendly ideas in the realm of publicity and advertising.” One of their friendly ideas was the Old Masters Series which Swiss Artist Louis Rivier suggested to the Swiss company. Artist Rivier set to work, produced four pictures. Nestlé arranged for them to be printed in L’lllustration at an advertising rate of about $2,250 a page.

No sooner was the nursing-bottle Raphael issued than Nestlé’s mailbags fairly burst with angry protests. French esthetes called the picture a rank desecration. French Catholics roared: “Sacrilege!” Nestlé directors promptly dropped the whole campaign as too hot to handle. Explained Director Guiraud:

“Since we have failed in the attainment of an artistic goal, we are suppressing the remainder of the series. Let me add that the artist is not only a well-known artist of religious subjects but also an earnest Christian.”

Swiss Artist Rivier is even more. He is the theatrical critic of the Gazette de Lausanne. He has decorated the Protestant Church at Auteuíl, France, has completed 1,000 square meters of murals for Lausanne University. For his fourth advertisement Artist Rivier took Jacques Louis David’s famed portrait of beauteous Mme Recamier reclining on her chaise longue, put a naked 16-month-old baby on her knees, had her holding out a full nursing bottle to it.

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