Museo Ducati

There are eerie similarities to approaching beautiful women and beautiful books. In both cases one hopes that what is beyond the surface doesn’t disappoint.

Museo Ducati by Chris Jonnum. Photography by Peter Harholdt. Bull Publishing

by Chris Jonnum
Photography by Peter Harholdt

The promise of Museo Ducati is great. The cover is stunning. Anyone who has seen Peter Harholdt’s work on Can-Am cars and other books comes to this one with a high level of expectation. As with his previous books, Harholdt has taken his studio to his subjects and thus controlled the atmosphere in which he works. Iconic images of Paul Smart’s Imola winning 750 and Mike Hailwood’s 900SS are part of the DNA of all Ducatisti. Harholdt delivers what we expect and more. Fully aware of the emotional aspects of Hailwood’s 1978 Isle of Man win, he gives us a stunning two page shot of the red, white and green tank, so strong and detailed that one can see minute flaws in its paint. It has an amazingly strong effect.

The book is populated throughout with images you wouldn’t expect. The fuel lines, Dell’Orto carburetors, and head casting of Hailwood’s Twin 250 Desmo. Also the startling contrast of the copper colored frame, front forks and tank highlights on the 175F make art of both the image and this motorcycle. These are images that will live in your memory and make you want to find such creatures.

Museo Ducati by Chris Jonnum. Photography by Peter Harholdt. Bull Publishing

Museo Ducati by Chris Jonnum. Photography by Peter Harholdt. Bull Publishing

Riders want beautiful machines. Racers want winning machines. Today’s racing vehicles often sacrifice beauty for efficiency. Most of the book covers the evolution of the Ducati racing machines from the time when they were based on street bikes. The last part of the book deals with post Carl Fogarty 916 era. These purpose-built racers, through Harholdt’s lenses, convey a sense of intense power and purpose in a simple line. His images of this period celebrate the accomplishment of marrying the technical marvels that live on the hard edge of effectiveness with a shape that is simple grace and beauty. Italian designers aren’t the only ones to do this, but, this book attests that they have been doing it far longer and far more often than others.

Museo Ducati by Chris Jonnum. Photography by Peter Harholdt. Bull Publishing

Museo Ducati by Chris Jonnum. Photography by Peter Harholdt. Bull Publishing

Livio Lodi is the Curator of the Museo Ducati and he wrote the foreword to the book. He begins, “In the winter of 1997 I decided I was ready for a career change. I had started my Career with Ducati a decade earlier, with a position on the assembly line, before moving to the accounting department.” From that moment on I was hooked. Lodi tells the story of learning that management intended to create a museum dedicated to Ducati’s racing heritage. A passionate historian, he applied for the job and got it. That just seems so improbable. I had to find out what happened next.

Museo Ducati by Chris Jonnum. Photography by Peter Harholdt. Bull Publishing

Museo Ducati by Chris Jonnum. Photography by Peter Harholdt. Bull Publishing

Writer Chris Jonnum’s introduction of the work process, the people involved and then on to the book, gives us a sense of the atmosphere in which the whole creative team worked. I enjoyed that. As for his prose, if you have ever ridden a motorcycle through a set of lazy sweepers that allow you to set up corners and enjoy the easy ride, you will appreciate Jonnum’s style. It is not so much a narrative as it is a supportive prop for the images.

Museo Ducati by Chris Jonnum. Photography by Peter Harholdt. Bull Publishing

In contrast to another Iconic Italian company, where strong personalities seem to populate the history of the product, Ducati is primarily about the product. The Ducati brothers and other owners are hardly mentioned. It is identified more with its successful products. This book presents them and explains their importance.

A caution, this book is not a history of DucatI or even its racing history. It is primarily an art book with excellent commentary and helpful specification boxes of each model. From this book, you won’t learn more about the people involved with Ducati than you already know. But, you will be introduced to the Museo Ducati and its historic racing collection and that is hardly a small or a bad thing.

This is a keeper and at $39.95 you should buy one for yourself and one for a friend… or two.

Bull Publishing, 2012

Author: Chris Jonnum | Photography by Peter Harholdt
Format: Hardcover, 9” x 11”, 144 pages, English/Italian
Photos: 107 color photographs
ISBN: 978-1-935007-16-6
Price: $39.95