Renowned as one of the finest prewar automotive marques, Mercedes-Benz built upon Germany’s postwar reconstruction with a succession of new models and a return to racing dominance during the 1950s. With almost unrivalled engineering prowess, purposeful luxury, and timeless styling, the soon-to-be iconic 300-series models were introduced alongside the W187 220 Series at the 1951 IAA Show in Frankfurt.
Featuring beautifully proportioned body styling, the 220 was produced in limited numbers to exceptional quality standards and remains yet another key component of Mercedes’ enduring legacy today. So much so, that the 220 has lent itself extremely well to the “Art Car” touch made famous by the psychedelic VW Buses of “hippie” fame and Janis Joplin’s Porsche 356 Cabriolet, with its body hand painted into an unforgettable happening on four wheels that captivated residents of her adopted San Francisco hometown in the late 1960s.
One of the best-known modern reinterpretations of the Art Car tradition was executed on a grand scale by Los Angeles-based silkscreen artist Hiro Yamagata, who has applied his artistry to more than 20 examples of the Mercedes-Benz 220A Cabriolet A since the early 1990s. Featuring impeccable styling cues and Mercedes’ excellence, the 220A was a natural choice as canvas for Yamagata’s artistry, given its rarity with just 1,287 produced in all, plus Joplin’s lyrical reference to her lust for a God-given Mercedes-Benz, from the song by the same name on her posthumously released final album, “Pearl.”
Sourced worldwide, each of Yamagata’s Mercedes-Benz 220A Cabriolet A Art Cars started as fully and expertly restored examples featuring properly finished bodywork, correct upholstery, and accurate interior appointments including rich wooden accents and even radio hardware. While restored to be worthy of the concours lawn, Yamagata’s cars served wonderfully as blank canvases for his artistic vision for this monumental art project, with bodies finished in White matte acrylic paint, with surfaces roughened, providing a primer coat for Yamagata’s hand-painted artwork. Each car of the series features a unique motif. According to art critic Sam Hunter, Yamagata’s artwork “…reversed the symbol of the car as an industrial, automated machine and brought it into harmony with nature.”
Collectively known as the Earthly Paradise series, Yamagata’s reimagined Mercedes-Benz 220A Cabriolet A designs featured images of bright, beautifully plumed birds, colorful flowers, and other nature-inspired scenes to create an exotic tableau on each car, evoking vivid images of lush jungles teeming with life and warm, exotic tropical nights. Predictably, Yamagata’s Earthly Paradise cars have enjoyed high-profile display at international venues, including the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, the 46th Venice Biennale in 1995. Of further note, many of Yamagata’s exhibitions were held in conjunction with America’s famous Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg, who wrote books with Yamagata complementing the presentations of the Earthly Paradise series.
Named “Butterflies and Roses,” this captivating 1952 Mercedes-Benz 220A Cabriolet delivers a wonderfully kaleidoscopic and lively visual experience, featuring a completely hand-painted acrylic finish with colorful, large-scale butterflies seemingly ready to take flight at any moment. Following completion by Yamagata, this specific Earthly Paradise car was exhibited at Vienna, Austria’s Museum of Applied Arts. The prior owner of “Butterflies and Roses” acquired the vehicle in 2016 and it was enjoyed by them solely as a unique artwork on static display. Recent work has been completed to ensure it can be returned to running and driving condition; however, a mechanical recommissioning is required for any contemplated road use. Nonetheless, “Butterflies and Roses” stands foremost an important and integral part of Yamagata’s singular vision to fuse the mechanical and natural worlds. Items included with this stunning vehicle are a correct roadside jack and wheel tools, plus a complete set of highly desirable fitted luggage. A truly amazing artwork, based on one of the finest postwar Mercedes-Benz models, this 1952 Mercedes-Benz 220A Cabriolet A is a compelling and unique collector find on all counts.
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Stock number 7369
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