Jubilee Cards: Photo Albums and Diplomas to Celebrate Milestones
02 March 2023
Celebrations of anniversaries have always been important moments for Generali, both for its shareholders and partners outside the company as well as for its employees and management. These are more than a mere excuse for a celebration – they are historical milestones in the Company’s identity that are to be appreciated and their impact to be imprinted on it for all time. These are the well-wishes that appear again and again in the pages of the jubilee gifts received by Generali from its main agencies and branches across Europe, on occasions such as the anniversaries of its founding, whether the 50th (1881), 75th (1906) or the centenary (1931). There are congratulatory missives, generally produced on parchment with different artists’ handwriting styles, occasionally decorated with heraldic symbols of the city of origin or with classic floral-inspired decorative themes. They were usually bound in leather with golden engravings or decorations, and in some cases were further adorned with inserts of precious metal or gemstones. And as with any greeting card worthy of the name: the faces and signatures of the executives who appointed themselves spokespeople of the office conveying its congratulations, even if, as in some cases, it was the whole team of staff to sign their names at the bottom, sometimes totalling in the hundreds.
Private anniversaries were included as well. References are often found in the minutes of the Directors’ meetings (preserved in the Historical Archive) to gifts commissioned by Generali on the occasion of significant personal milestones, such as 25 years of service or retirement. Indeed, this custom dates back to the 19th century, with internal events recognised not only with bonuses, but also with finely decorated certificates, scrolls, photo albums, books or artworks (both paintings and sculptures), or with charities set up in the names of the executive in question. This aspect of the Company’s heritage put down roots over time in response to the deep-seated sense of belonging of those who received these gifts and recognitions and who left these personal mementos to the Company when the time came to leave, often after a lifetime of service to Generali and the Group companies. This is testament to the close professional ties and bond between themselves and the Company, and the continuity between their personal and professional lives.
The collection also includes certain honours awarded to members of the Company’s executive hierarchy, which in some cases remained in the Company’s hands and in others were merged with their personal archives. Such is the case, for example, with Marco Besso, former chairman of Generali. Numerous awards of merit related to his work with Generali have been preserved, and today can be found at the foundation he launched in Rome that bears his name.
The oldest find in the jubilee album collection is a certificate dating back to 1852, awarding Giovanni Battista Benvenuti, director of the Vienna agency and of the Austrian National Bank, with a knighthood of the third-class (cavalierato di terza classe). Enclosed within a purple velvet folder and meticulously decorated with coats of arms and heraldic symbols of the Austrian crown, it is recognition of the achievements of this high-profile businessman, his name appearing on every page of the document alongside praises in many graphic forms and colours.
The oldest photo album preserved within the Generali Archive dates back to 1887, and is dedicated to executive secretary Davide Cusin, a highly regarded employee of the Trieste Head Office, on reaching 25 years of service. The album includes approximately a hundred photos of employees, many of them identified by name and surname. Consisting of a (patented) vertical binder that recalls a card index ring holder, this anniversary gift notes the recognition and gratitude of the Head Office for Cusin’s work over the years, with well-wishes and hopes for many fruitful years to follow.
Among the other recipients of anniversary cards are various names of well-known figures in the Company’s history. Giuseppe Besso, for example, the brother of Marco, the longstanding secretary general of the Trieste Head Office who was later appointed its executive director; Edmondo Richetti, another secretary general; lawyer Ettore Richetti, who spent decades on Generali’s board of directors; Arturo Kellner, executive secretary of the Veneto Head Office; and Ermanno Gentilli, executive director of Anonima Infortuni of Milan, a subsidiary of Generali founded in 1896. Some may be slightly less familiar to us today, such as Antonio Kenda, an executive in the transport division, although the gifts they received offer extensive testimony of their achievements.
The certificates were hand-painted by artists and calligraphers, who in some cases signed their works. Pietro Antonio Sencig, designer of the beautiful scrolls for the Richetti brothers, Ettore and Edmondo, received his training at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts. He left a modest imprint on the local art scenes in Trieste and Udine as a poster designer, portraitist and fresco painter. For Ettore Richetti, in 1914 he was commissioned by the Trieste public charity head office to produce a decorated certificate to mark 25 years of voluntary patronage of the organisation. Hired by the Company, for Edmondo Richetti Sencig produced a little booklet consisting of eight pages of parchment that include a frontispiece and a copy of the speech delivered in his honour by Abramo Sabato Besso, head of Generali’s Asia business, on March 26, 1913, followed by a list of names of employees from the Veneto Head Office and numerous agencies. Today, this is among the most valuable historical sources for the history of the Company.
A highly moving collection of photographs also offers a journey through some of the most memorable moments in the Company’s history, with events marking 50, 75, 100, 125, 150 and 175 years of the Company’s founding, and so does a section of the Company’s cultural and artistic patrimony dedicated to collecting medals and valuable objects, often decorated, that were donated to Generali by branch offices in other countries or by companies of the Group.
In addition to the jubilees in the form of paper diplomas, there is also a collection of art objects, precious cadeaus that accompanied the augural parchments to crown the solemnity of the occasion. You can browse this collection by accessing the online catalogue dedicated to the artistic heritage, or by following the stories published in the editorial section of the site and through the generic search box on each page.