Thursday, December 15, 2011

Piaggio Museum in Italy features an exhibit on the Inventor of the Vespa


 "Corradino D'Ascanio: Man, Genius, Magician, Legend": an important exhibition at the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera, open until the end of January 2012, pays tribute to the inventor of the Vespa scooter, examining his long adventurous life and endless ideas. A special stamp collection dedicated to D'Ascanio will be present on Tuesday, December 20 at the Piaggio Museum.

Pontedera, Italy, November 23 2011 – Corradino D’Ascanio, the aeronautical engineering genius who invented the Vespa scooter, is the subject of a major exhibition designed and organized by the Piaggio Foundation and architect Enrico Agonigi, at the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera (, open now through January 31, 2012.

 "Corradino D’Ascanio: Man, Genius, Magician, Legend" – an event organized with the patronage of the Abruzzo Archives Superintendency, the Regional Authority of Tuscany, the Provincial Authority of Pisa, the Municipality of Pontedera, the Provincial Authority of Pescara and the Municipality of Popoli – takes visitors through four sections (the Man, the Genius, the Magician, the Legend) illustrating the unique genius of one of the great names of Italian industrial history. Showing an extensive selection of projects, original drawings, documents and contemporary publications, as well as the oldest Vespa models from the Piaggio Museum collection, the exhibition celebrates Corradino D’Ascanio and his creation of a true icon of Italian style and industry, famous all over the world. Since the development of the first model, the “98cc” patented by D’Ascanio on 23 April 1946, more than 17 million Vespas have been produced and sold worldwide. And the success of the first and most famous scooter continues: Vespa worldwide sales in 2011 are about to reach the remarkable milestone of 150,000 vehicles sold in just one year. Fifty thousand were sold in 2003, but since 2006 Piaggio has regularly sold an annual total of more than 100,000 scooters, and this number continues to grow.

The opening of the exhibition on November 22 was attended by local government representatives from Tuscany and Abruzzo and a special guest, actor Luca Zingaretti, who took on the role of Corradino D’Ascanio and read outloud a series of letters written by the engineer. Other items present included many documents and personal items loaned by the D’Ascanio family to the curators of the exhibition at the Piaggio Museum.

The exhibition section devoted to the Man – presented in the catalogue by Maria D’Ascanio – physically re-creates Corradino D'Ascanio’s workplace, with original objects and furniture. Visitors can see a huge collection of private photographs and documents on his lifetime, from his childhood in Popoli in the Abruzzo region, to his years in the U.S., and his arrival in Piaggio.

 The focus of the section on the Genius – introduced in the exhibition catalogue by Giorgetto Giugiaro – is a large collection of vehicles, patents and technical drawings examining the professional formation of Corradino D'Ascanio (b. Popoli, February 1, 1891; d. Pisa, August 6, 1981). The exhibits investigate the origins of his engineering knowledge that lead D'Ascanio to patent the first prototype of the modern helicopter and then, between 1945 and 1946, the Vespa, setting off the extraordinary success story of one of the most important symbols of Italian industry and creativity.

Corradino D’Ascanio’s creativity was not limited to his engineering activities, however, as the section on the Magician explains, with a catalogue commentary by Costantino Frontalini. His thousands of other ideas include bizarre installations devised for exhibitions and trade fairs where the Vespa was shown, as well as tricks designed to astonish- such as the "Vespa on a peach-tree branch" or "Vespa on a jet of water". These stunning effects can be seen at the exhibition thanks to the virtual reality technology developed by the Percro laboratory of Pisa’s Sant’Anna University.

The last section in the exhibition on the inventor of the Vespa looks at the Legend (presented in the catalogue by Donatella Puliga): next to the most important models developed by D'Ascanio, a series of filmed interviews with friends, colleagues and relations offers an account of a powerfully unique figure, fondly remembered by those who knew him.

Artistic contributors to the exhibition – a key event for introducing people to the work of Corradino D’Ascanio – are Daniel Schinasi (who created the portrait used as the exhibition symbol), Alberto Fremura (author of four pencil sketches for the four sections of the exhibition) and Pisan scriptwriter Mario Cristiani, who edited the epistolary reading for the opening delivered by Luca Zingaretti and accompanied by accordionist Fabio Ceccarelli, who composed the music played at the event.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by a special stamp presentation, from 2 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 20, at the Piaggio Museum. The stamp design, created by Maria Cecilia Imiotti from a famous photograph of Corradino D’Ascanio, will be catalogued and archived at the Post and Telecommunication Museum in Rome.

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