The Michele Rapisarda Collection brings together more than 13,000 printed materials for both everyday use and special occasions, paper long considered devoid of interest, and difficult to procure and preserve due to the fragility of materials, which have often ended up being disposed of.
Michele Rapisarda, a Milanese collector, has over the course of forty years collected business cards, price control posters and bills of lading, commercial invoices, letterheads of the Cisalpine Republic, notices and orders relating to trade and food, collectible cards, postcards, labels, magazines, receipts, fans, posters and promotional gifts, sales catalogues and brochures, bookmarks, discount vouchers and reward points, flyers, wrapping paper and much more (50 different types of sheet divided into 60 themes). All these items document aspects of the customs and development of consumption from the eighteenth century to the 1960s.
This rare, little-known iconographic repertoire puts forward new prospects in investigating history and economy, from the agricultural and livestock products transported and sold in markets and small shops, all the way to modern industrial production, which is increasingly more complex and structured with the supply, packaging and distribution stages.
Materials relating to popular stores document the era of the beginnings of mass consumption, which has as its central figure the “modern woman”, engaged in battle against domestic struggle with the aid of detergents, household appliances and canned products. These materials also provide starting points for the study of mass communication. Many of the illustrations bear signatures of renowned artists and masters of advertising, from Antonio Rubino, Leonetto Cappiello and Marcello Dudovich, to Erberto Carboni, Bruno Munari, and Max Huber.
The collection’s items include a wide range of materials of varying type related to the Bocconi, Rinascente and UPIM department stores, which are invaluable in retracing more than 100 years of product, lifestyle and fashion ranges, along with providing significant examples of innovation in the field of graphic design.
One curio comes in the form of the Grande Magazzino (Department Store) board game, which was on sale in the years just after 1950. The instructions read: “This is a brand-new game. It involves taking a colourful stroll around the Grande Magazzino’s departments, where everyone can indulge in shopping - wisely – for whatever they need.”