Sunday 6 September 2009

Ghost signs (24): apero time

My latest ghost sign finds are two Breton palimpsests featuring popular French aperitifs. First, in Jugon Les Lacs, there's a spelling error in 'Dubonnet' (the same mistake is found in nearby Broons: perhaps it was the same signwriter). The second attempt painted over it is not only correct, but also features the famous Dubo-Dubon-Dubonnet slogan.

Like many other aperitif drinks, Dubonnet contains quinine. Apparently this was the result of a call by the French government to find an appetising way for soldiers in North Africa to take the bitter but anti-malarial substance. Dubonnet's solution was to add herbs, spices and citrus peel.

However, lurking more faintly behind the Dubonnet adverts is the Martini logo. Although very popular in France, Martini is of course an Italian brand.

The second palimpsest, in Lamballe, has St Raphaël emblazoned faintly across it, and the bottle's silhouette can just be made out. Company legend has it that the drink got its name because when inventor Dr Juppet's long nights working on the formula caused his sight to fail, he prayed to the archangel Raphael (who had cured Tobias of a similar infliction). Juppet's sight was restored, his formula was a success, and he named the drink in tribute.

The distinctive font dates back to the 1930s; the bottle itself is as important a part of St Raphaël's image as the label. Both features survive on this advert; the drink itself is yet another quinine-based aperitif. Its bitterness is ameliorated by ingredients including orange peel, cocoa and vanilla.

More legible is the exhortation to 'exigez la brillantine Forvil': demand Forvil brilliantine. This text-only advert was typical for the brand. Like the British favourite, Brylcreem, Forvil enjoyed great popularity in the 1950s. It gave the hair shine and a pleasant scent.


IanVisits said...

Another ghost sign has emerged thanks to the demolition work at Tottenham Court Road for the Crossrail station.

Forgot to take a photo, sorry - but maybe someone else can?

CarolineLD said...

That would be great - typically, I'm not back in London for another week myself.

Ashtonian said...


CarolineLD said...

That's a nice one - have you submitted it to the UK ghost signs archive? (More info here)