Pegs used in Avant-garde art and Contemporary Art

It was Antonio Bueno (Berlin 1918 - Florence 1984), a member of “Gruppo ‘70”, a group of Florence artists known for having created a form of ‘technological’ art which made use of materials of commercial, advertising, or journalistic origin, who first used the Quercetti pegs, between 1965-1966, to fulfil his works. It consisted of female faces made up of pegs of different diameters. His work named ‘Figura n° 37’, of 1966, was created this way and can be seen today at the Gam, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Torino (Modern Art Gallery of Turin). Also the work called ‘Volto’, 1965, made with a mixed technique and the use of pegs to outline a female face, can be seen at the Fondazione Culturale Bruno Caruso (Bruno Caruso Cultural Foundation) at the Giardini Naxos (Naxos Gardens) in Messina. In more recent times, the variety of contemporary art was enriched by the new arrival of personal portraits by the artist from Lombardy, Antonio Marciano, who used the modular tablets and the smallest Quercetti pegs for works that take on an appearance which can be defined as ‘pixeled’, where the image is subdivided into dots, as if they were in fact pixels.

1959-1960: The Missile Tor

From Alessandro’s passion for flying, the Tor missile was born, a toy missile which took advantage of the launching mechanism with an elastic sling and can reach a hundred meters of height. Alessandro applied aerodynamics by inventing a mechanism to offset the opening of the parachute o the time it would start to fall back down to the ground, without damage to the missile.

Here are the words of Alessandro Quercetti in regards to this:

“How did this idea come about? The spark was a small doll that could be shot with a sling; it could reach the first floor, more or less. A tier held the small puppet and a little folded-up parachute, when the tier untied itself, it would let them loose. It was the period of missiles launched by the Russians; lacking means of recovery, they would often go lost, burnt during re-entry.”

The description coincides perfectly with Eolo Paracadutista, a flying toy which had a discreet success, made by Aerogiocattoli Giolitto di Torino, founded by that same Roberto Giolitto who we have already mentioned in the elastic-driven air model contests of the Thirties. Another example of flying toys, made by the same Turin firm, is the Astronave Medusa (Medusa Spaceship), perhaps the first example of a missile to launch with a sling, using a parachute to return to the ground without damage to the summit capsule.

The success of the Tor was so great that the newspaper Unità wrote, in 1959:

A toy-missile to be thrown with a sling Astronaut scientists are greatly embarrassed: the toy has in fact solved one of the toughest problems of missile technique: the recovery not just of the nose cone, but of the whole missile… It is true: the Soviets have already given some proof of getting dogs and bunnies back in one piece after a launch into the high spaces of the stratosphere.
The Americans have also attempted, although with a few failed attempts, however a monkey at least made it back alive. Yet the toy missile is something that is both enchanting and astonishing at the same time. It is the last novelty for the young ones, who unlike the past generations, find themselves benefitting each day from the progresses of technique.
The missile we speak of (albeit the odd joke about the real ones) is a cone with a 25 millimeter diameter and 25 centimeters long. It is thrown by a common sling with an elastic band. A strong lad can easily ‘shoot’ his plastic missile at least 50 meters up into the air, by means of the rubber band being hooked to the two winglets just below the nose cone.
How do you retrieve it though? The beauty of the toy missile lies precisely here. The cylindrical part of the missile, up to the area where the two winglets for launching it are located, is sliced horizontally and opens just enough (via a lever at the end of the missile) to let out a nylon parachute. Now when it is launched, the air pressure keeps the two halves of the cylinder held together: however once the missile starts falling back down to Earth, this pressure decreases naturally and the lever flicks down, opening the cylinder and out pops the parachute, allowing the missile to glide softly back to the ground, preventing the missile from being destroyed.
The parachute is then easy to fold back up and placed back inside the cavity, ready for a new launch. The toy missile, which has just recently appeared in shop windows in Milan, is sold for the price of 500 Lire. It comes with colour decals which the child can add on to his liking in order to give it a more exciting look. There are two types on sale, to be precise: a nylon parachute version, and one with rotating wooden blades.
The principal is identical for both: if one chooses the version with blades, when the missile starts falling, the wooden horizontal blades spring out instead of a parachute, depositing the missile on the ground in a similar way to a helicopter. The price is the same. Even more than children, this novelty has enticed the fancy of many parents, who have tried out the missile’s antics, surrounded by a group of envious youngsters, ready to criticize each failed launch.

Today the Tor is still in production after over 50 years and is the Quercetti toy which enjoys most sales, with 14 million pieces distributed worldwide.

1961-1962: Mach-X and Fireball XL5

In 1961 the Mach-X was born, an evolution of the Tor, a missile with such astonishing performance that it has never been reached by any other flying toy. The missile would be launched from a ramp, via two special slings, and when reaching the summit of its flight, a mechanism would open the compartment, freeing both a capsule with a parachute and a parachute for the landing of the missile itself. Although it has no longer been in production for the past 40 years, it is one of the toys that was most loved and is most often remembered by people born in the Sixties.

In 1964 the toy was awarded the prestigious ‘Pinocchio D’Oro’ (Golden Pinocchio) award, for the category of “toys built with plastic and metal with movement”. The space shuttle Fireball XL5 instead, was produced in the tens of thousands, upon demand of a large British client which, after the extraordinary international success of a TV series for children featuring the incredible adventures of colonel Steve Zodiac and his spaceship, requested the creation of an airborne plastic toy to be launched with a sling. This was an extremely fortunate marketing operation which made the Quercetti name even more famous worldwide, and gave its products international fame.