|Alessandro Biffignandi (photo: Aldi di Gennaro)|
Appreciation for his work was slow in developing, Erotic horror comics began to appear in the late 1960s but exploded when Renzo Barbieri set up Edifumetto to publish titles like Biancaneve, an erotic version of Snow White, and Zora la Vampira. The covers painted by Biffignandi and his contemporaries, featured bare-buttocked models, colourful monsters and hints—often more than hints—of sadism. The sexy fumetti inside covered everything from horror to history, fantasy to fairy tales, but the best feature was inevitably the eye-popping covers by some of the most talented Italian artists of the day, notably Biffignandi, Emanuele Taglietti, Roberto Molino and Carlo Jacono.
These pocket titles sold in their millions every month at their peak in the mid-1970s, but sales had collapsed by 1984, although some title would continue to be published until the end of the decade.
Biffignandi’s preference for painting in oil and use of models gave his artwork the look of classical paintings, but it was his use of colour that made them stand out. It reflected the early influence of film posters and the arrival of giallo films, which used vivid colours, disorientating composition and fetishistic close-ups… all terms that could equally apply to Biffignandi’s covers.
Born in Rome on 8 October 1935, Alessandro Romano Biffignandi developed an early interest in art and cartoons through reading the Italian Disney comic Topolino. At 17 he made his debut as a cartoonist working on Captain Walter for AVE.
After graduating from art school, where he developed a fascination with film posters, he became an apprentice to movie theatre billboard designer Averardo Ciriello. After working briefly for movie theatre advertisers Enzo and Giuliano Nistri, at the age of 20 he was head-hunted by the studio of Augusto Favelli, at the time Italy’s most prolific provider of movie posters.
He settled in Milan in the late 1950s, initially providing work for French comic strips ‘Flambo’, ‘Agent K-3’, ‘Peter Berg’ ‘John Kine’ and ‘Rombo Bill’ and covers for Nevada, Hondo, Kiwi, Rodeo and Zemla, published by Lyon-based Lug, who specialised in petits formats (pocket library) titles, some of them also published in Italy.
He also provided illustrations for 8 episodes of the Treasure series ‘The Wonderful Story of Britain’ in 1963 and covers for weekly comic Hurricane (1964) and annuals. For Tell Me Why he drew 12 episodes of ‘Strange Facts’ in 1968-69, as well as more covers for both Tell Me Why and its replacement World of Wonder (1970). In all, Biffignandi produced some 500 covers for the UK.
Biffignandi was also an illustrator for Italian magazines, amongst them La Tribuna Illustrata, Domenica del Corriere, Grazia and Confidenze and cover artist for I Rosa Mondadori, Intrepido, Il Monello, Lanciostory and UFO.
To tie in with an exhibition in Perguia Palazzo della Penna (19 April-2 June 2014), Lo Scarabeo published L’arte di Alessandro Biffignandi as a limited volume of 560 numbered copies; the same publisher also released Biancaneve, a portfolio of 10 new paintings in a deluxe edition of only 60 numbered and signed copies, with a further 100 ‘standard’ edition copies (numbered 61-160) featuring 8 illustrations. A further collection of his covers, Sex and Horror: The Art of Alessandro Biffignandi, was published by Korero Press in 2016.