Running to Sunday 8 February 2009, the exhibition Corriere dei Piccoli; omaggio a Silvio Spaventa Filippi offers a tribute to the first editor of the comic launched in 1908 by the publishers of the national daily Corriere della Sera, and designed to offer younger readers a weekly fix of cartoons.

The original stories published in the Corriere dei Piccoli were acquired from the USA, where comic strips had already become an established part of the Sunday newspapers. Thus the Italian audience became familiar with Buster Brown, The Happy Hooligan, The Newlyweds, Bringing Up Father, and Little Nemo. They were later joined by locally-grown characters, such Signor Bonaventura and, even later, Topo Gigio.

The Corriere dei Piccoli ceased publication in the mid-1970s. But the spirit lives on, as revealed by the works displayed at the Sala Veratti in Varese from 17 January to 8 February 2009. Six artists provide personal insights inspired by the comic newspaper that provided a highlight of the week for several generations of young Italians.

Giugi Bassani uses the Corriere dei Piccoli masthead to make the traditional pinafores worn by elementary school children for many decades – and just this year reintroduced as part of the government’s far-ranging education reforms.

Renato Bonardi adapts the traditional Italian Gioco dell’Oca (the Game of the Goose), from which is probably derived Snakes and Ladders format, using characters from the Corriere dei Piccoli. In the centre, a small mirror, in which the visitor may reflect on his or her role in the grand plan.

Barbara Però uses gentle pastel shades of gouache to conjure animals conveying acute contemporary messages, just as the Corriere dei Piccoli characters did.

A more personal approach for Pietro Sormani, meanwhile. For he started his career at the Corriere dei Piccoli and later graduated to the mother-publication, the daily Corriere della Sera, which we could call the Corriere dei Grandi!

Gian Reverberi turned to contemporary technology, using Photoshop to create a vortex of motion, the Corriere dei Piccoli taking on a form never imagined at the time.

Closing the show is a work by illustrator Mike Snyder. Since the Corriere dei Piccoli brought the very latest in comic art to Italian children, he shows us his interpretation of what a modern-day version of the publication might look like. Manga to the fore!

Other exhibits include copies of the Corriere dei Piccoli correspondence and a display of greetings cards that would have been exchanged by the very first readers of the Corriere dei Piccoli.

The exhibition is curated by Luciana Schiroli, and is promoted by the Varese City Council,


1.The exhibition: Corriere dei Piccoli: omaggio a Silvio Spaventa Filippi, being held at the Sala Veratti, 20 Via Veratti, Varese, is open to view from 10.30-12.30, and 15.30-19.00, from Tuesday to Sunday. The exhibition runs from 17 January 2009 to 8 February 2009.

2. Corriere dei Piccoli: omaggio a Silvio Spaventa Filippi complements the exhibition Corriere dei Piccoli, Storie, fumetti e illustrazioni per ragazzi, which takes place at the Rotonda della Besana, Via Besana (by Piazza Cinque Giornate) in Milan between 22 January 2009 and 17 May 2009.

Consisting of over three hundred exhibits, many of them drawn from the 40,000 original drawings held in the archives of the Fondazione Corriere, the exhibition Corriere dei Piccoli, Storie, fumetti e illustrazioni per ragazzi, is curated by Giovanna Ginex, an expert in Italian twentieth-century illustration.

Although launched at the end of 1908, the Corriere dei Piccoli was several years in the making. The original idea was fostered by Luigi Albertini, the editor of the Corriere della Sera, then as now, Italy’s leading daily newspaper. Indeed, in 1906, Albertini had charged the paper’s foreign correspondent with tracking down copies of American comics papers designed for children, from pre-reading age through to their mid-teens. Letters then went back and forth between the editor of the Corriere della Sera, in Milan, and his counterpart at The World in New York, and the Amalgamated Press in London. Albertini wanted, and obtained, the Italian exclusive on hundreds of strips owned by these papers, including Buster Brown.

That was just the start, though. Clearly, the strips needed to be translated, a process that started with the names.

That was not all, though. The strip format, with word bubbles, was considered unsuitable for the young Italian audience. These were replaced by captions, in verse, below each image.

Now known as Mimmo, Buster Brown featured on the front cover of the launch issue of the Corriere dei Piccoli, which was dated 27 December 1908, and was edited by Silvio Spaventa Filippi.

As time went on, the cartoons bought-in from other countries came to be supplemented by home-grown product. As early as 1909, Spaventa Filippi, who was to serve as editor for the next 22 years, had approached the artist Sergio Tofano to create an Italian cartoon character. Signor Bonaventura was the result, a figure familiar to Italians of all ages, especially as he outgrew the pages of the comic papers, striding out into the cinema, television, as well as being the advertising testimonial for the Corriere dei Piccoli for many years.

Topo Gigio, who’s still going strong in Canada and other markets, was another typically-Italian cartoon character who owed his existence to the Corriere dei Piccoli.

Other characters to grace the pages of the Corriere dei Piccoli (also called the Corrierino, to stress its status, as the the Corriere della Sera for the younger set) were Lucky Luke, the Smurfs (called the Puffi, in italian), and Pimpa.

The Corriere dei Piccoli played a significant role in the careers of many Italian artists and writers, including Tullio Altan, Milo Manara, Hugo Pratt, Bruno Bozzetto, and Guido Crepax, as well as Bruno Angoletta, Giana Anguissola, Dino Battaglia, Carlo Bisi, Aldo Di Gennaro, Attilio Mussino, Antonio Rubino, Grazia Nidasio, Lino Penati, Sergio Toppi, Mario Uggeri, and Benito Jacovitti.

Throughout its history, the Corriere dei Piccoli published material of many genres — from illustrated stories and serialised novels (usually in half-page to two-page weekly installments), through educational material, feature columns, news, reviews, readers’ letters, puzzles, and board games.

Selling over 500,000 copies at its peak, the Corriere dei Piccoli, which had since changed its name to the Corriere dei ragazzi, ceased publication in 1976. Over 50,000 original drawings, documents, and other graphic material related to the publication are held in the archives of the Corriere della Sera in Milan.

 Mike Snyder's take on the Corriere dei Piccoli, Jan 17, 2009 issue
Mike Snyder's take on the Corriere dei Piccoli, Jan 17, 2009 issue