Beretta and the Vittoria Alata
It is well recognised that history is made up of events, and that many of these events are decorated or illuminated by symbols. One such example exists in the city of Brescia, with the bronze statue of Vittoria Alata; which became for many years the symbol and trademark of Beretta.
In the mid-October 2020 and the Lioness of Italy, as Brescia is known, was celebrated the return of this work of art to its natural seat, following extensive and careful restoration at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence. Beretta has taken this opportunity to retrace the past and celebrate when and in what circumstances their path, and that of the statue, actually crossed. It is worth remembering that the Vittoria Alata statue was discovered in the Capitolium area in 1826 together with other bronzes dating back to the Roman era. Its charm has remained unchanged over time: a symbol of Brescian character.
So, how do these two histories intertwine? At that time the gun factory was managed by Pietro Antonio Beretta (1791-1853), but it was under the leadership of his descendant Pietro (1870-1957) that the application for the transcription of the "Vittoria Alata” trademark was submitted to the Prefect of Brescia.
The reason behind this decision is a perfect example of the innovative ability of the Beretta company: it was in fact based on the desire to turn the company from a craft enterprise into an industrial concern, embracing international economic concepts which we would recognise today as marketing and brand development.
During the pre-war period, in 1913 the company was led by Pietro Beretta, who was passionate about applied arts and all that was "beautiful". He decided to make the symbol and the trademark indivisible (Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce Registration no. 13,760). With the initials "PBG" at the top and the inscription "Vittoria” (Victory) at the bottom; here is the first version of a distinctive symbol, which highlights the key alliance between functionality and meticulous attention to detail, represented aesthetically.
The goddess was reproduced on every catalogue in her original beauty: with both arms she is holding and intently writing on the shield, and a Mars helmet is placed under her left foot, as if it were resting on a step. This trademark was adopted before the statue was taken from Brescia to Rome. At this time the government ordered many artistic and cultural heritage pieces to be taken there as a precautionary measure: the intention being to keep the most prestigious works of art as far as possible from the front lines of battle. Two years later the war ended and the statue returned to Brescia.
In the meantime, the symbol had gained increasing importance within the company and was used in all the subsequent company catalogues. Throughout these years, the symbol was also used on product manuals, especially those intended for the general public. The alternative graphics were represented by the inscription Pietro Beretta or the “PB” logo in an oval frame. This same oval that, up until the catalogues issued in the 1950s was also used for the Vittoria Alata, accompanied by the inscription “registered trademark” and "company founded in 1680".
A further step forward in the iconographic aspects took place at the end of the 1920s, when the young Giuseppe Beretta (1906-1993), son of Pietro and the thirteenth representative of the family, met the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. The war poet suggested that Giuseppe might use one of his favourite mottos "Dare in brocca" (i.e. "hit the target") represented by three arrows that "hit" three different targets: an instant visual representation of the absolute precision used to manufacture the company's firearms. This trademark was registered on 16 March 1950. It was during this period, from 1952 to 1953, that the catalogue witnessed a fundamental change: there was no longer a logo on the cover, but the Vittoria Alata and Three Arrows logos were printed on the left and right internal pages, respectfully. This was a significant decision for the brand which became increasingly important in the presentation of their wide range of products, manufactured for both the civil and armed forces sectors alike.
In addition to the above, the presence of the Vittoria Alata logo on the guns manufactured in the 1950s was also important. The goddess appeared on the promotional knife that was supplied with every Beretta product; on the figurine trophies presented to the winners of the long rifle (22LR) competitions well into the next decade; and on the entire series of Beretta S55 over-and-under shotguns. These were a cutting edge gun for the company; designed in 1955, and the first industrial over-and-under shotgun to boast the interchangeability of parts without the need for manual adjustment. In this case the Vittoria Alata logo appeared on the receiver and continued to be used for this gun, until the introduction of the “58” version, for both hunting and competition guns alike.
Another “Vittoria Alata” trademark was registered in the State Archives in 1958. This version however, disappeared from the Beretta catalogues between 1968 and 1969. Then from 1972 onwards, only the Three Arrows logo was used, except in 1977 when, in remembrance of the twentieth anniversary of the death of Pietro Beretta, the Vittoria Alata logo returned to the cover of the catalogue, in recognition of Pietro’s championing of the symbol. Thus bringing us to 1978, and the final registration of the “Vittoria Alata” trademark, which itself expired on 29 July 1998.
More recently, in 2017, Beretta decided to redesign the Vittoria Alata logo to launch the Vittoria shotgun range, a line that is still included in the catalogue. The statue returned to the catalogue, gracing the top of the dedicated pages. A far from random choice given that these guns feature a design conceived for female shooters.
Which leads us neatly to 2020, when the company received a request from the Gussalli Beretta family,
to design a commemorative product dedicated to the bronze statue, so significant to Brescia. The result is the unique, single edition, SL3 shotgun
which boasts the beautiful wings of the Vittoria Alata on the side plates. Beretta’s master engravers have even managed to capture the fineness of the feathers on the wings. The entire sculpture is also engraved in gold on the receiver. The finishing touch is the hand crafted case with the logo of the Roman bronze statue in prime position.
This splendid shotgun has been unveiled to the general public on the same day that the Vittoria Alata Roman statue is returned to the Brescia Museum.