How Automobilist resurrected The White Dame
One of the most recent Automobilist projects was commissioned by Maserati, which wanted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first Gran Turismo: the 3500GT prototype affectionately known as Dama Bianca, or White Dame. It was the star of the 1957 Geneva Salon, setting the template for the production car with only minor design tweaks and announcing Maserati’s ambitious foray into the series production of grand tourers after withdrawal from racing earlier that year. However, sixty years on, a fresh challenge presented itself: today the White Dame no longer exists, presumed destroyed once its promotional duties were fulfilled.
The long-lost Dame
The lack of a reference car presented the project’s first obstacle for the Automobilist team to navigate, but luckily Maserati had several monochrome photos of the car in its archive. Crucially, they showed its subtle detail differences from various angles, allowing the Automobilists to build up a faithful 3D model of the long-lost dame. With the modelling process of the car alone taking two months to complete, the rest of the team headed to Modena, Italy, for some on-location scouting. Maserati’s brief was to recreate a journey the White Dame was known to have completed after its return from the Geneva salon: a test run through the cobbled piazzas that surrounded the old Maserati headquarters.
Settling on a streetscape
Once Maserati had chosen a backdrop from a shortlist of potential Modenese locations, the Automobilist team set about collecting data from the streetscape. Research showed it had changed dramatically from its appearance in the late 1950s – it was now paved rather than cobbled for a start – but it still retained its old-world charm, with the architecture largely consistent. Using pioneering 3D technology, a 360-degree photograph shot in multiple exposures was then stitched onto a sphere. This meant the team not only had an accurate representation of the scape on which to base its artwork, but also highly accurate lighting data taken at various points throughout the day. They used a low-detail, work-in-progress 3D model of the White Dame to evaluate the best angles and lighting conditions in real time. It was this depth of groundwork and asset capture that allowed Maserati and Automobilist to later decide on an early-morning setting for the final artwork.
Maserati’s brief also stated it wanted the awe of the early-rising bystanders to be palpable, so the Automobilist conducted a casting call followed by a photoshoot to capture the various characters in the scene. These included the mature gentleman whose gaze had been wrestled from his morning newspaper, the meandering Vespa driver about to be left in the haze of the White Dame’s quad tailpipes and, perhaps most importantly, the polka-dotted bambolina whose affections have been stirred by the heart-wrenching beauty of the new Maserati GT.
Beyond providing welcome input on these key decisions, Maserati left the Automobilists to handle the majority of the design decisions. ‘The process works best when the team is the kind of given creative freedom we thrive on,’ says Jan Rambousek, Automobilist’s Creative Director. ‘However, we do invite the client to give us their feedback and ideas throughout the process to make sure our visions stay aligned. In this respect, we achieved a harmonious balance with Maserati – they trusted us to deliver and let us get on with it.’
The evocative artwork is the first of what Automobilist hopes will be a number of bespoke corporate commissions, with the aim of bringing key moments in a particular marque’s legacy to life – historically accurate yet preserved in a rich new medium from a fresh, unseen perspective for a new generation.