"The Energies of Italy"

Article in Fortune Magazine, 1953


Italy; United States


"The Energies of Italy" is a ten-page article published in January 1954 by Henry Luce's magazine, Fortune and entirely dedicated to showing the achievements of modern Italian industries and businesses. The graphic design was realized by Italian writer and artist Carlo Levi and helps reveal how, compared to the years immediately after the war (that is when Christ Stopped at Eboli was first published), the public representation of Italy in the United States was significantly changing.  Far from being governed by a sense of immobility, the Italy that appeared in the pages of Fortune was one of ferment and frenzy, where "city streets are clamorous with traffic, ports crowded, factories humming, shops glistering."

The magazine pointed out that Italian industrial production had grown by 50% since the end of the war, contributing to increase exports to the United States and making the country gradually less dependent on American imports and aid. Italians were praised for being a "hard working, creative people, able to reach the made in Italy stamp of excellence" and able to export to the world "not just the product of factories and mills, but the work of Italian craftsmen and designers, of Italian painters, sculptors, writers and movie makers." These statements were followed by a roundup of illustrations and descriptions - realized by leading contemporary Italian artists - of some of Italy's most important industrial productions, from Eni's methane pipelines and Cornigliano steelworks to Volterra alabasters and Murano glass, not to mention Vespa scooters, Lambrettas and Ferragamo shoes.

The tones that characterized these representations show, on the one hand, the close link between Americanization and Italianization, and on the other, the definition of Italian modernity as an ideal mix of tradition and innovation, capable of combining American production methods and technologies with Italy's own sense of style and an enduring artistic and artisan tradition. And so, in speaking of Necchi - "the third most popular sewing machines company in the world" - the article noted that although it had existed since 1923 and was appreciated for the shape and design of its productions, "it was not until the plant was rebuilt on automobile assembly line principles in 1948 that the machine broke into the world market." Similarly, the growth of the Larderello plants was attributed as much to Italian genius as to Marshall Plan aid. The key to the success of Gaetano Marzotto's woolen mills was said to lie in his being "part a Venetian grand signeur, part modern industrialist," adept at "blending of industrial production and art." While the charm of the vases and glass bottles produced by Venini in Venice came from his ability to give them a modern design, without renouncing centuries-old methods of production.

Related Vectors

Salvatore Ferragamo


“The Energies of Italy,” Fortune, Gennaio 1954, pp. 98-107.

Author Giulia Crisanti