Sending Greetings

A selection of author's greeting cards from the Sormani Library

By Biblioteca Sormani

Leo Winkeler's family Christmas cardBiblioteca Sormani

Remember me as I remember you

"A P.F. is a special wish, drawn by an artist for his friends or on commission for the friends of others, which they will receive as a small original souvenir; and since they are artists, the subject can be whimsical, sometimes bizarre, not always respectful of saints, indeed a little irreverent, winks at you with irony or takes you to the magical world of childhood... It can also be serious, of course, in this case it will cause you to meditate... P.F.: read it as you like it. Per Festeggiare in Italian, Pro Festivitate or Pro Fausto if you're a Latin nostalgic..., Pour Féliciter, with the chic sound of the French language. The meaning is always the same: remember me as I remember you, and don't forget a pinch of art and poetry among the ingredients that give taste to life". [L. Pecorella Vergnano, Un augurio speciale, in P.F. un augurio speciale, Fondazione Italo Zetti, dicembre 2006]

Dutch Greeting card (s.d.)Biblioteca Sormani

Gianni Mantero's Christmas card, 1967 (1967) by Gianni ManteroBiblioteca Sormani

Here are the Three Wise Men, usually represented in a sacred way, are drawn as the kings of a deck of playing cards; Balthazar seems to be watching the incense as it catches fire.

Else Latterman's Greeting card for the year 1982 (1981) by Hermann HuffertBiblioteca Sormani

In this P.F. nothing is missing: the dove of peace, the Novena candle, the traditional party dress and the cart pulled by a rocking horse, the king of children's games..

Rolf Totter's Greeting card for the year 1966 (1965) by Rolf TotterBiblioteca Sormani

Viennese caricaturist, born in 1922, Rolf Totter was trained as a cartographer. He began to "draw cheerful pictures" after fighting in the war and after enduring two years of imprisonment.

Myra and Jan Rhebergen's Greeting card for the year 1979 (1978) by Ernst GrunewaldBiblioteca Sormani

The scene closely recalls a subject from a humorous cartoon and the writing says "Not too much luck in 1979"!

Maria Bauer Klimbacher's Greeting card for the year 1982 (1981) by Maria Bauer KlimbacherBiblioteca Sormani

Taking a step back... 

When did the habit of greeting cards for Christmas or New Year become popular? As early as 1790, in Germany were imprinted cards with phrases of circumstance, but the actual origin of the greeting cards dates back to 1846, when the English artist J.C. Horsley produced a lithographed paper in 100 copies for his friend Henry Cole: the image on the card portrayed a family during a festive dinner, framed, on both sides, as a representation of mercy and charity.

Hans and Gerda Krause's Greeting card for the year 1984 (1983)Biblioteca Sormani

From German art, a P.F. inspired by Dürer, gives life to an aphorism by Einstein: "The problem of our time is not the atomic bomb. The problem of our time is the heart of man".

Greeting card (1980) by E.P.Biblioteca Sormani

The spread

Some English print houses specialized soon in the use of these cards and, within a few decades, the use of sending messages spread by means of artistic cards, on the occasion of Christmas holidays, Easter and early holidays: a new fashion that involved both well-known artists, on specific commission, and "simple" typographers, who reproduced in a serial way holy cards, flower frames or winter landscapes with children playing in the snow. In both cases, however, there was no lack of inserts, lace and technical experiments, so much so that the commercial cards soon took over the artistic ones, appreciated and then reproduced throughout Europe.

Gianni and Gheri Mantero's Christmas card, 1976 (1976)Biblioteca Sormani

Gian Luigi Uboldi's Christmas card (s.d.) by Gian Luigi UboldiBiblioteca Sormani

Main themes

In Italy and in the countries where the Christian tradition is strongest, the P.F.s often represent scenes from the Nativity or the Three Wise Men on their way to go and honor one God all together, in peace.

Giuseppe and Mafalda Mirabella's Greeting card for the year 1982 (1981) by Giuseppe MirabellaBiblioteca Sormani

Gianni Mantero's Christmas card, 1954 (1954) by Wim ZwiersBiblioteca Sormani

Gian Luigi Uboldi's Christmas card (s.d.) by Gian Luigi UboldiBiblioteca Sormani

Gianni Mantero's Christmas card, 1962 (1962) by Ernst SchromBiblioteca Sormani

Várkonyi Károly's Greeting card for the year 1982 (1981) by Várkonyi KárolyBiblioteca Sormani

Christmas time

In any case, there are also representations of Christmas as a time of the year when families get together in celebration, decorate the house, children receive the much desired toys while, outside, the snow covers the whole landscape with its immaculate cover.

P. & T. Ryswyk family's Greeting card for the year 1979 (1978) by TravertinBiblioteca Sormani

Toy soldiers and jugglers joyfully come out of the toy box.

Polish Greeting card (s.d.)Biblioteca Sormani

Travertyn's Greeting card (s.d.) by TravertinBiblioteca Sormani

Not only Christmas

Among the themes that recur in the first decades of the Twentieth Century, we find the representation of war scenes and the wish that peace can soon be reached and kept for as long as possible. For instance, some ex-libris from Gianni  Mantero (1897 - 1985) collection. During the war, Mantero was an engineer engaged on many fronts and in particular in the realization of the welfare state, such as marine and alpine colonies, the Mother and Child's House and the Balilla House in Como. He participated in the Second World War as Captain of the bridgeworker of the Mantova autotransport division, stationed on the Cyrenaic front. During the years of reconstruction, he designed workers' quarters in some municipalities in the province of Como. From the mid-1960s, however, the Mantero's exclusive activity became the collecting of engravings and art ex libris: an interest he had begun to cultivate in his youth and had consolidated in 1937, when he met M. Fingesten, one of the most appreciated engraving artists in the international field.

Gianni Mantero's Christmas card, 1942 (1942)Biblioteca Sormani

In 1946 he founded the BNEL (Black and White ex libris), an association that promoted the ex libris as an art object.

Gianni Mantero's Christmas card, 1946 (1946) by David Abraham Bueno de MesquitaBiblioteca Sormani

During the years of reconstruction, he designed workers' quarters in some municipalities in the province of Como. Como is also represented in this post-war Christmas P.F.

J.M. De Belder's Greeting card for the year 1982 (1981) by Fery AntalBiblioteca Sormani

Later on, other international P.F. sent a message for peace, with a dove holding the traditional olive branch.

Kovacs Karoly's Greeting card for the year 1982 (1981) by Fery AntalBiblioteca Sormani

Agata Heeren's Greeting card for the year 1981 (1980)Biblioteca Sormani

Happy New Year!

Alongside the production of cards with a Christmas theme, there is the use of cards dedicated to generic "Happy Holidays" or "Happy New Year" greetings, whose themes range from a bouquet of flowers to the to the celebration of a particular anniversary, to the glimpse of a city. Anyway there are always two fundamental elements: the name of the person who wishes and the year for which peace, health and serenity are hoped for.

Maria Bauer Klimbacher's Greeting card for the year 1983 (1982) by Maria Bauer KlimbacherBiblioteca Sormani

On a bridge, in the moonlight, an elderly lady heads wearily to the west, while a girl jumps happily to the east: the old year has now come to an end, let the new year begin!

Agata Heeren's Greeting card for the year 1979 (1978) by Henri BolBiblioteca Sormani

It's all in the details

Anniversaries related to the world of literature, art or music are often the "pretext" for iconographically very detailed executions, where in a small space elements are condensed to allow an immediate identification of the celebrated character.

Fery Antal's Greeting card for the year 1981 (1980) by Fery AntalBiblioteca Sormani

Elisabeth and Edmund Peter's Greeting card for the year 1988 (1987)Biblioteca Sormani

P.F .: Pour Féliciter, Pro Festivitate, Pro Fausto... Anyway, interpret these two letters, the message of good wishes is so clear that in this card there is no need to add anything else.

Ellen and Lorentz May's Greeting card for the year 1988 (1987) by Lorentz MayBiblioteca Sormani

There are also the celebrations of the Chinese New Year!

Ellen and Lorentz May's Greeting card for the year 1982 (1981) by Lorentz MayBiblioteca Sormani

Ellen and Lorentz May's Greeting card for the year 1980 (1979) by Lorentz MayBiblioteca Sormani

Ellen and Lorentz May's Greeting card for the year 1987 (1986) by Lorentz MayBiblioteca Sormani

Liliana and Sergio Guidi Greeting Card, 1985 (1985) by Gian Luigi UboldiBiblioteca Sormani

Views of the city

We have almost reached the end of this very short selection of P.F. and we could only conclude with these cards dedicated to the views of Milan made on original woodcuts by Gian Luigi Uboldi for Liliana and Sergio Guidi. Uboldi  (1915-2005) was a particularly prolific Milanese artist: painter, engraver of woodcuts, many of which have a sacred subject, etchings, lithographs, ex libris and P.F. If you retrace our exhibition again, you will find other works of his along the way, all characterized by the clear and confident line of the woodcut engraver. Sergio Guidi (Milan 1914-2009), on the other hand, was a manager of an important pharmaceutical company, but above all a passionate lover of exlibris, a refined collector of these works, as well as curator of exhibitions and events, and also collaborated with the Sormani Municipal Library.

Liliana and Sergio Guidi Greeting Card, 1982 (1982) by Gian Luigi UboldiBiblioteca Sormani

In the '80s, Guidi was a beacon for young artists and collectors. As president of the Italian Association Ex libris, he had the association recognized a legal status; in 2007, he was awarded the "Special Prize Remo Palmirani" as "refined collector and a silent example of generous industriousness".

Liliana and Sergio Guidi Greeting Card, 1984 (1984) by Gian Luigi UboldiBiblioteca Sormani

After his death, the heirs donated a very rich collection to the Sormani Library: over 12,000 ex libris, over 1,000 papers greeting cards, 103 folders, 22 magazines (about 514 issues) and 300 publications collected by Sergio Guidi starting from 1968.

Liliana and Sergio Guidi Greeting Card, 1979 (1979) by Gian Luigi UboldiBiblioteca Sormani

An important and significant documentation bearing witness to the national and international ex-book panorama of the last century, from which these P.F. were selected.

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