Divina Bugatti. A Timeless Legend Celebrated in a Timeless Book

May 31, 2024 | Automotive, Bugatti, Photography, Roberto Bigano

The cover of the book Divina Bugatti, Storia di un capolavoro meccanico published in 1991 by Franco Maria Ricci, with photographs by Roberto Bigano.

Divina Bugatti’s Story. Characters and Background.


We will tell you the story of the book “Divina Bugatti.” It was created as a joint effort between Romano Artioli, owner of Bugatti Automobili, and Franco Maria Ricci, a legendary Italian publisher—the photographs by Roberto Bigano. Before we begin, let us introduce the characters and put them in context.

Automobiles Ettore Bugatti was a French high-performance car manufacturer 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.

Romano Artioli is an Italian visionary entrepreneur who bought the Bugatti brand in 1987 and revived it in Campogalliano, Modena, as a builder of its time’s fastest series-production car. Bugatti Automobili produced a total of 128 cars. Read all the stories here.

Franco Maria Ricci was one of the most refined editors the world had ever seen. His iconic Magazine, FMR, and splendid books are still a reference. However, FMR was also an often unattainable goal for any photographer. Laura Casalis, Franco Maria Ricci’s widow, recently relaunched the FMR magazine and Publishing House with outstanding publications.

Roberto Bigano was Bugatti’s photographer at the beginning of the 1990s, documenting the birth of the new Bugatti. Roberto will introduce us to the fascinating vintage Bugatti world. You can find more stories by Roberto here.


Bugatti Type 57SC Coupè Atalante (1937). Use the arrows or tap on devices to see the two versions. Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse.

Roberto Bigano and Divina Bugatti.


Let Roberto Bigano tell us how the Divina Bugatti book project started and went through.

“In 1991, I was working for Bugatti Automobili. One day, the refined publisher Franco Maria Ricci, who already desired to celebrate the myth of the Bugatti, suggested the idea of a book on the legendary brand to Romano Artioli, the Bugatti company owner. They reached an agreement, and the plan went through. Naturally, Artioli mentioned “the best photographer in the world” to Ricci, encouraging my candidacy for the job. Ricci, as expected, was skeptical. “I have my photographers, ones I trust,” he said with a half smile. The persistence of Artioli gained me a meeting with Ricci. “Go and take a few shots; we’ll see,” he said to get rid of me.”
From Roberto Bigano’s “1976-1992. A very serious, semi-serious biography.”

Dashboard of a Bugatti Type 35B Grand-Prix (1927). Photo by Roberto Bigano. Courtesy: Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse. Buy this image at Ikonographia.com store

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

The Photoshooting at the Musée National de l’Automobile


I felt well-equipped for my departure—one hundred forty-five different accessories packed in the trunk of my station wagon. For months, I had been working on how to build a mobile set around a Bugatti on location. Before violating that holy ground, I carried out a test: I photographed a Lancia Thema in a large shed. It worked, so I decided to go ahead.

Upon arriving at the National Automobile Museum of Mulhouse in Alsace, I embarked on my nocturnal marathon. Cloaked in the atmosphere of suspense, in the eery silence, I came face to face with The Divine. The situation reminded me of one of Hemingway’s stories: the bull and the lion, still before the charge. I was almost worried that the steel muscles would explode, at any time, in all their power, and the beast within would run me over like a train. I had an emotional outburst; I felt as if I were running a fever. Like a robot, I kept shooting and opening Polaroids. I looked at her, but I could not see inside her. Fatigue and tension made everything even more dramatic. “What am I doing here in France, in the middle of the night, in a dark museum? Why didn’t I stay home?” I started thinking.
From Roberto Bigano’s “1976-1992. A very serious, semi-serious biography.”

The Turning Point Polaroid at Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse. Bugatti Type 35B Sport Two-seater, US Coachwork (1927).

Suddenly, I had reached the turning point: I opened yet another Polaroid, but this time, I found the courage to look at it with a photographer’s eye. I had recognized her, THE Bugatti, in all her dazzling beauty. “I am yours. Only you will be able to possess me,” she was saying. I started dancing as if I was in the middle of the Rio de Janeiro carnival parade. I didn’t feel tired anymore. “I’ve done it!” I said, my voice echoing in the empty museum.
I’d finally gotten a hold of the situation. I’d jumped on the wild horse and was riding as a Native American would.
From Roberto Bigano’s “1976-1992. A very serious, semi-serious biography.”

The Backstage for Divina Bugatti. Musée National de l'Automobile, Mulhouse, Alsace, France. June 1991. Photo by Roberto Bigano. Buy this image at Ikonographia.com store

The Backstage for Divina Bugatti. Musée National de l’Automobile, Mulhouse, Alsace, France on June 1991.
All the pictures were taken with a 4×5 Plaubel Wiew Camera, Makro Sironar 300mm lens, and Ektachrome Professional film.

The Presentation at Franco Maria Ricci.


I arrived at Franco Maria Ricci’s, feeling confident and appearing as cold-blooded as a contract killer. I knew I was in the presence of one of the most refined editors the world had ever seen. Still, I also knew that I could not fail: if he had any taste at all – and it could not be otherwise – he could not still be indifferent after seeing my work.

Ricci received me with a gentler than polite smile, the smile you would give a child showing you their drawing. His expression changed and suddenly brightened after his eyes settled on the first transparency. “But they are… lit!” he whispered to himself. “Of course they are! Did you think I would bring you the dark ones?” I answered in a friendly yet amused manner. It felt like I was watching from the outside as if I were the spectator to a film. Franco Maria Ricci picked up the phone. “Come and look at something sensational!” he said, running down the corridor enthusiastically. “Call the others and tell them to come to my office!” He looked at me excitedly in front of all his associates, as if I were a superhero, and offered me some incredible projects: on Spanish baroque style, on medieval armor, on the town of Parma, and on French cabinet-makers. He had just assigned me all his future projects.
I had managed to impress Franco Maria Ricci, the king of aesthetics!
From Roberto Bigano’s “1976-1992. A very serious, semi-serious biography.”

Backstage at Museé National de l'Automobile, Mulhouse. Bugatti Type 41 Royale Coupé Napoleon (1929) The personal car of Ettore Bugatti.

Backstage at the Museum. All the pictures of the Royale were taken at night in this set, which was highly problematic. The Royale was 7.2m / 24 feet and was very difficult to lighten.

Selected pictures from the book.


I arrived at Franco Maria Ricci’s, feeling confident and appearing as cold-blooded as a contract killer. I knew I was in the presence of one of the most refined editors the world had ever seen. Still, I also knew that I could not fail: if he had any taste at all – and it could not be otherwise – he could not still be indifferent after seeing my work.

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

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 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. Photo by Roberto Bigano. Courtesy: Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse. Buy this image at Ikonographia.com store

The Elephant carved by Rembrandt Bugatti placed atop the radiator grill of Ettore Bugatti’s Type 41 Royale Coupé Napoleon. An elephant stands on its back legs, with the erect trunk symbolizing aggression and coupling (1929).
Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile, Mulhouse.

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. Photo by Roberto Bigano. Courtesy: British Garage, Paris. Buy this image at Ikonographia.com store

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—photo by Roberto Bigano. Courtesy: Museé National de l’Automobile, Mulhouse

Bugatti Type 32 Biplace Course "Tank" (1923). This striking, unexpected rear view emphasizes the aerodynamics of the design. Photo by Roberto Bigano. Courtesy: Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse. Buy this image at Ikonographia.com store

Bugatti Type 32 Biplace Course “Tank” (1923). This striking, unexpected rear view emphasizes the aerodynamics of the design. Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse.

Bugatti Type 35B Sport Two-seater, US Coachwork (1927). Photo by Roberto Bigano. Courtesy: Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse. Buy this image at Ikonographia.com store

Bugatti Type 35B Sport Two-seater, US Coachwork (1927) . Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse.

Bugatti Type 59-50B Grand Prix Monoplace Course - Single Seater 1938. Photo by Roberto Bigano. Courtesy: Courtesy: Musée National de l’Automobile Mulhouse. Buy this image at Ikonographia.com store

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

1991 World preview of  the new Bugatti EB110


Divina Bugatti previewed the first EB110 epowood sample, designed by Benedini, with the covered rear wheels reminding of the Bugatti Atlantic and Aérolithe.
The design was later changed after Michelin determined that the covered tires would overheat.

The very first EB110 model made in epowood as designed by Benedini, with the rear wheels covered reminding the Bugatti Atlantic.  Photo Roberto Bigano. Buy this image in the ikonographia.com store.

The first EB110 model, made in Epowood, was designed by Benedini, with the covered rear wheels reminding of the Bugatti Atlantic and Aérolithe.
Read more about Bugatti EB110 >

Divina Bugatti. Storia di un capolavoro meccanico.<br />
Divine Bugatti. Histoire d'un chef dœvre de la mécanique.<br />
Franco Maria Ricci Editore 1991.

Divina Bugatti. Storia di un capolavoro meccanico.
Divine Bugatti. Histoire d’un chef dœuvre de la mécanique.
Franco Maria Ricci Editore 1991.
Photographs by Roberto Bigano.
Texts by Giuseppe Maghenzani, Ivo Ceci, Norbert Steinhauser, Paul Kestler.

204 pages.
72 color prints on matte-coated paper.
15 hand-applied color plates.
29 reproductions 30 x 30 cm.
Luxury Fabriano blue-laid paper.
Black “Orient” silk binding with gold impressions.
Circulation of Italian Edition, 5000 numbered copies.
Circulation of French Edition, 5000 numbered copies.


The book was sold out for decades once a recent discovery made a few units available for purchase again.
Buy the Italian or French Edition >

Copyright and credits

Photographs by Roberto Bigano.
All the images in this post are copyrighted. Tutte le immagini di questo post sono coperte da copyright.
Browse and buy all Bugatti Automobili images.
Browse and buy all Bugatti Vintage images.

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.