Bugatti Masterpieces of 1920s and 1930s. By Roberto Bigano

Jul 4, 2024 | Automotive, Bugatti, Photography, Roberto Bigano

Bugatti Type 37A, "Flighty" (1928) - Owners, Frederica and Simon Fitzpatrick, Guernsey © Roberto Bigano/ ikonographoa.com Browse the Bugatti Archive https://www.ikonographia.com/archive/the-bugatti-archive/

Bugatti Type 37A, “Flighty” (1928) – Owners Frederica and Simon Fitzpatrick, Guernsey.

Bugatti Masterpieces. A gallery of the most iconic models.


Ikonographia is proud to showcase a gallery of the most iconic vintage Bugatti models, highlighted by the splendid images of Roberto Bigano. The models range from the legendary Type 13 and Type 35 racing models to the stylish Type 57 Atalante and Atlantic designed by Jean Bugatti.
All the images are available in high-resolution or fine-art prints.

A 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Coupé Atlantic lightened in silhouette mode to emphasize the flowing coupé lines

A 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Coupé Atlantic. Detail of the windshield and wipers emphasizing the riveted crest.
Jean Bugatti designed the half-body ending in a crest. He then reverted the first part right-left and finally joined the two pieces with rivets in one of the most daring automotive designs. Courtesy: British Garage, Paris.

About Ettore and Jean Bugatti.


Automobiles Ettore Bugatti was a French car manufacturer of high-performance cars, founded in 1909 in Molsheim, Alsace, France, by the Italian industrial designer Ettore Bugatti. The firm produced about 8,000 cars and is known for its design beauty and many race victories.

Ettore Bugatti himself designed his creations (together with his highly talented son Jean, who later took to the drawing board alone). This extraordinary man had attended the Brera School of Art as a youth, yielding an artistic streak inherited from his father, Carlo (a fine cabinet-maker). The founding genius of the Bugatti firm also demonstrated an astonishing ability for mechanical engineering and an amazingly eclectic mind in general.

This flair had also gone to his brother Rembrandt, the talented sculptor whose works include the little elephant triumphing on the Royale’s bonnet. 

The legendary Ettore Bugatti's signature on the engine head of a 1921 Type 13 Brescia. Photo by Roberto Bigano. Buy this image in the ikonographia.com store.

The legendary Ettore Bugatti’s signature on the engine head of a 1921 Type 13 Brescia.

A gallery of Masterpieces. Let’s start with the Type 13 Brescia.


The Bugatti Type 13, Brescia, was the first actual Bugatti produced from 1910 to 1926. Thanks to the race victories, Bugatti became known as pur-sang (thoroughbred), keeping with Ettore Bugatti’s feelings for his designs.

The Bugatti Type 13, Brescia, was fast and technically superior, making it virtually unbeatable. This was evident in the 1921 Brescia Grand Prix, where Bugatti’s cars finished in the top four places, sparking a surge in orders. With the introduction of the “Brescia,” Ettore Bugatti fundamentally changed the racing scene, as his cars won almost every competition they entered in the 1920s, cementing their place in racing history.

The first Brescia’s rough, simple design was refined in the latest model, as the splendid yellow sample below shows.

Bugatti Type 13 Brescia, 1921. Photo by Roberto Bigano.<br />
Buy this image at https://www.ikonographia.com/archive/the-bugatti-archive/

Bugatti Type 13 Brescia, 1921.

The Bugatti Type 35.


The Bugatti Type 35 is an iconic race car design produced between 1924 and 1930. It was phenomenally successful, winning over 1,000 races in its time. In 1926, it took the Grand Prix World Championship after winning 351 races and setting 47 records in the two prior years.

At its height, the Type 35 averaged 14 weekly race wins, including the prestigious Targa Florio for five consecutive years, from 1925 through 1929.

Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix Biplace Course - Two Seater Racing

Bugatti Type 35B Grand Prix Biplace Course Two-Seater Racing 1927.
The Type 35 is an iconic race car design produced between 1924 and 1930. It was phenomenally successful, winning over 1,000 races in its time. At its height, the Type 35 averaged 14 weekly race wins, including the prestigious Targa Florio for five consecutive years, from 1925 through 1929.

Dashboard of a Bugatti Type 35B Grand-Prix (1927) - Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse

The dashboard of a Bugatti Type 35B Grand-Prix (1927) – Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse.

Bugatti Type 35A, 1926. Owned by Gigi Baulino & Enrica Varese. © Roberto Bigano/ ikonographoa.com Browse the Bugatti Archive https://www.ikonographia.com/archive/the-bugatti-archive/

Bugatti Type 35A, 1926. Owners Gigi Baulino & Enrica Varese, Italy. Picture taken at Bugatti International Meeting 2009. Hasselblad 39 Multishot Camera High-resolution file.
The owner forbade the photographer from washing the car so as not to erase the dirt from the race, which made it fascinating.
Watch the video of this event >

The Bugatti Type 41 Royale.


The Bugatti Type 41 Royale was gorgeous in its seven-meter length. It was enormous, had the most oversized wheels, and was the longest and tallest limo. Her design and form would smoothly conceal the captivating exuberance of an eight-cylinder motor for an impressive 12,773 cubic meters capacity that defines once and for all the original idea of a car.

Only seven Royales were produced. We showcase the “Coupè Napoleon,” Ettore Bugatti’s car, and the Bugatti Type 41 Esders Roadster, probably the most elegant.

Bugatti Type 41 Royale Coupé Napoleon (1929) The personal car of Ettore Bugatti. Courtesy: Musée National de l'Automobile, Mulhouse. Photo by Roberto Bigano. Courtesy: Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse. Buy this image at Ikonographia.com store

Bugatti Type 41 Royale Coupé Napoleon (1929), the personal car of Ettore Bugatti. On top of the radiator grill is the symbol of the Royales, the Elephant carved by Rembrandt Bugatti. Courtesy: Museé National de l’Automobile, Mulhouse.

The Bugatti Royale’s Prancing Elephant, according to Antonio Tabucchi.


There has never been such an expensive car. Only seven Bugatti Royale were built, each one different. Upon the radiator grill, the Royale and the Petit Royale had a prancing elephant carved by Rembrandt Bugatti, Ettore’s brother, as a symbol.  You can find it described in Rebus, a short tale by Antonio Tabucchi. Here is an excerpt.

The Bugatti Royale, according to Antonio Tabucchi.

It really was a Bugatti Royale, a Coupé de Ville; I don’t know if that means anything to you, Monsieur […] Albert couldn’t believe his eyes. It’s not possible; it’s not possible, he repeated to himself while stroking the long-tempered bumpers.

I don’t know if you understand, but a Bugatti gives one the idea of a woman’s body lying down on her back with her legs forward […] The elephant was missing from the bonnet. That was the only awful surprise. Maybe you may not know, or perhaps you just haven’t noticed, that Bugatti had a figurine of a silver statue of an elephant on the bonnet, right on top of the radiator grill. It was a sculpture by Ettore’s brother, Rembrandt Bugatti. It wasn’t only a trademark, like the Rolls Royce Winged Victory of Samothrace or the Packard’s Swan, but a tangible symbol to be deciphered like every other symbol. It was an elephant standing on his back legs, with the erect trunk symbolizing aggression and coupling.

Does it seem too easy to explain? Perhaps. But think about it: a Bugatti Royale lying on its back, going slowly uphill, wings spread open, ready to speed up, ready for the thrill, with that fabulous radiator grill protecting its pulsating life and energy, and on the top an elephant with an erect trunk.
Excerpt from the short story “Rebus” in “Little Misunderstandings of No Importance” “(Piccoli equivoci senza importanza), by Antonio Tabucchi.

Leggi il testo originale italiano.

“Rebus.” Da “Piccoli equivoci senza importanza.”


“Era proprio una Bugatti Royale, un coupé de ville, non so se a lei dice qualcosa, Monsieur (…) Albert non credeva ai suoi occhi, non è possibile, ripeteva, non è possibile, e accarezzava i parafanghi affusolati e lunghi, non so se lei riesce a capire, ma nella Bugatti c’è l’idea del corpo femminile, una donna, appoggiata sulla schiena con le gambe in avanti (…)

Mancava l’elefante sul cofano, fu l’unica brutta sorpresa (…) Forse lei non lo sa, o non ci ha mai fatto caso, ma la Bugatti aveva sul cofano, proprio all’apice della volta della griglia, la statuetta d’argento di un elefante. Era una scultura del fratello di Ettore, Rembrandt Bugatti, e non era solo un marchio della casa, come la vittoria alata della Rolls o il cigno della Packard, quello era un vero simbolo, misterioso da decifrare come tutti i simboli, era un elefante in piedi sulle zampe posteriori e la proboscide eretta in un barrito di aggressione o di accoppiamento.

The Elephant carved by Rembrandt Bugatti, right on top of the radiator grill of the Type 41 Royale Coupé Napoleon, the personal car of Ettore Bugatti. It was an elephant standing on his back legs, with the erect trunk as a symbol of aggression and coupling (1929) - Courtesy: Musée National de l'Automobile, Mulhouse

The Elephant by Rembrandt Bugatti, right on top of the radiator grill of the Type 41 Royale Coupé Napoleon, the personal car of Ettore Bugatti (1929). It was the symbol of the Royales. 

Bugatti Type 55 Sport Roadster and Coupé


The Type 55 was introduced at the 1931 Paris Motor Show. It was produced until 1935 in 38 samples, Roadster and Coupé, most of which had factory bodywork elegantly designed by Jean Bugatti.
Like many high-end automakers, Bugatti used its success in competition to promote its road cars. This already happened with the Type 13 Brescia and the Type 35.
The Type 55 was a direct descendant of the Type 51 race car and was similarly powered by a supercharged 2.3-litre dual-overhead-cam inline-eight.

We showcase here two pictures of the Roadster and Coupé, with the classic factory bodywork by Jean Bugatti.

Bugatti Type 55 Sport Roadster 1932. Road version of the Type 51 Grand Prix, produced in 38 smaples from 1932 to 1935.

Bugatti Type 55 Roadster, as designed by Jean Bugatti.  Courtesy: Museé National de l’Automobile, Mulhouse.

Bugatti Type 55 Sport Coupe 1932. Road version of the Type 51 Grand Prix, produced in 38 smaples from 1932 to 1935.

Bugatti Type 55 Coupé, as designed by Jean Bugatti.  Courtesy: Museé National de l’Automobile, Mulhouse.

Bugatti Type 59-50B Grand Prix Monoplace Course - Single Seater 1938 - Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse

Bugatti Type 59-50B Grand Prix Monoplace Course – Single Seater 1938

About Roberto Bigano


Anne Harriet Fish Sifton Portrait 1915

Roberto's eye by Francesco Piras.

All the pictures on this page are by Roberto Bigano, an Italian photographer with 35 books to his credit. He developed special skills in digital and high-resolution photography and taught photography at international workshops and conferences.

Read all Roberto's stories on this site.
About Roberto Bigano.
Browse or Buy his pictures as hi-res files in the Roberto Bigano Archive.
Browse or Buy his Fine-Art Prints
Dedicated pages on his works on Ikonographia: Bugatti Automobili, Bburago, "Plastic Girls" (Mannequins), Sardinia Artistic Bread.