Zoetrope: Le Figaro premium, 1868.

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Le Figaro was founded as a satirical weekly in 1826, taking its name and motto from Le Mariage de Figaro, a play by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais that poked fun at privilege. Its motto, from Figaro's monologue in the play's final act, is "Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n'est point d'èloge flatteur" ("Without the freedom to criticise, there is no true praise"). In 1833, editor Nestor Roqueplan fought a duel with a Colonel Gallois, who was offended by an article in Le Figaro, and was wounded but recovered. The paper was published somewhat irregularly until 1854, when it was taken over by Hippolyte de Villemessant. By 1866, it had gained the greatest circulation of any newspaper in France. Its first daily edition, that of 16 November 1866, sold 56,000 copies. Albert Wolff, Emile Zola, Alphonse Karr and Jules Claretie were among the paper's early contributors. As of 2004, Le Figaro is controlled by Serge Dassault, a conservative businessman and politician. [adapted from Wikipedia] The latest popular society fad, the zoetrope, was offered at a premium in April 1868, with some picture strips based on American artwork, and others specially produced.

Left: Front page of Le Figaro, 27 April 1868 Right: Some of the subjects imported from Milton Bradley (Gallica.bnf.fr)

Left: Le Figaro's zoetrope was made by Delacour and Bakes (Gallica.bnf.fr)

Right: Bertall, by Disdéri (Wikipedia Commons)

The text reads: "Des artistes linès, Bertall, Hadol, Penauille, ont crayonné des bonshommes tout exprès pour notre clientèle, à qui chacun brigue de plaire." [The artists, [Charles Albert d'Arnoux, known as] Bertall [1820-1882], [Paul] Hadol [1835-1875], [Edme] Penauille [c.1840-1871], have drawn these fellows especially for our clientele, and have done so for pleasure.]

These artists drew the six caricatures of celebrities and two cartoons of popular characters, and are amongst the few known names of early animation. It could be that they drew just one or two 'character sheet' key drawings, leaving the actual animation (which is probably very limited) to an unknown animator. [note 1]

Left: zoetrope image. (Galloca.bnf.fr)
Right: photograph, albumen print, by Nadar
(RMN-Grand Palais [musée d'Orsay])

(The Projection Box)

Jean Hippolyte Auguste Delaunay de Villemessant (1810-1879), was publisher of Le Figaro, and "a great believer in scandal and indiscretion of every kind." [A Dangerous Woman: The Life, Loves, and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menken, by Michael Foster, Barbara M. Foster. Lyons Press 2011, p.255] The paper, one of several started by twice-bankrupt Villemessant, was launched, failed and re-launched several times.

[Photo: http://www.photo-arago.fr/C.aspx?VP3=SearchDetail&VBID=27MQ2JSIEJB8&PN=16&IID=2C6NU0BZ4KEL]

La Lune caricatures by Gill. Left: 18 November 1866. Le Villemessant as Figaro. Top left is Albert Wolff, bottom left is Adrien Marx. Right: 3 January 1868. Le Villemessant as a nursemaid in charge of Wolff and Henri Rochefort. All of the characters named in this caption, and described below, appeared as subjects on zoetrope strips.
(The Projection Box)

Left: zoetrope image (Gallica. bnf.fr)
Right: Bust of Albert Wolff by Jules Dalou, Père Lachaise Cemetery
(Pierre-Yves Beaudouin, Creative Commons)

(The Projection Box)

Albert Wolff (1835-1891), Le Figaro's art critic and editor, 'opens a box of surprises'. Albert Abraham Wolff was a journalist, playwright and critic (of German origin) who settled in France in 1857. He worked as the secretary of Alexandre Dumas, and in 1859 became an editor (under the pseudonym Charles Brissac) at the illustrated paper Le Charivari - the model for Punch magazine - and contributor to Le Figaro, commencing art criticism in 1868, the year of the zoetrope strips. At Le Figaro he gained a reputation as the most prominent and the most feared of the art press critics. His incendiary writings against the Impressionist exhibitions of 1876 and 1879 are legendary.
[adapted from: http://www.appl-lachaise.net/appl/article.php3?id_article=1133]

Left: zoetrope image. (Gallica.bnf.fr) 2nd: Gill cartoon of Rochefort with lantern, L'Eclipse No 20, 1868 (private collection) 3rd: print (border text trimmed) 1871. (Albion Prints) Right: Rochefort by Disdéri (Wikipedia Commons)

(The Projection Box)

The colourful writer and duelist Henri Rochefort, Marquis de Rochefort-Luçay (1830-1913), one-time contributor to the paper whose connection with Le Figaro was terminated when it caused problems with the authorities. In August 1868 (four months after publication of the caricature zoetrope strip showing him shining a light from a lantern) "the prince of press controversy" was imprisoned for political views published in his own journal La Lanterne. Henri Rochefort, whose colourful activism continued for many decades, was widely caricatured: the 1871 metamorphic drawing (was Rochefort fond of 'Le Raisin?') is by Alfred le Petit. [includes information from Wikipedia]
[Print: http://www.albion-prints.com/le-petit-botanical-caricature-1871-henri-rochefort-as-grapes-fruit-15164-p.asp]

Left: zoetrope image (Gallica.bnf.fr)
Centre: Adrien Marx, carte de visite (detail). Alphonse J. Liebert, Paris. Right: detail, zoetrope strip (François Binétruy)

(The Projection Box)

The gentleman on the velocipede (or boneshaker bicycle) is Adrien Marx (1837-1906), 'a young and forward Parisian journalist', who was a contributor to Le Figaro. Marx also wrote an introduction to Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. A book with a similar theme, Le Tour du Monde en Vélocipède by Jacques Le Grand, the world's first novel featuring this new two-wheel means of transport, was published in Paris in 1869.

Left: zoetrope image (Gallica.bnf.fr)
Right: Drawing by Ernest de Liphart, 1880. (Gallica. bnf.fr)

(The Projection Box)

Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) , the influential composer and cellist and one of the originators of the operetta - his own examples combined political and cultural satire with witty grand opera parodies - is best known for his opera The Tales of Hoffmann.

[drawing: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b7721817g/f15.item]

Left: zoetrope image (Gallica.bnf.fr) Centre: 29 August 1869 magazine engraving by E. Penauille (based on a photograph), one of the artists of the Figaro caricature strips (journaux-collection.com)
Right: Postage stamp, 1998

(The Projection Box)

Mademoiselle Thérésa was Teresa Carreno (1853-1917), a celebrated Venezuelan pianist and singer, who made her Paris debut in 1866. Her first public piano performance had been at Irving Hall, New York City in 1862, when she was 8 years old. She became an opera singer in 1876, touring Europe. Teresa Carreno was also a composer of at least 40 works for piano. In 1905, she recorded 18 pieces for the Welte-Mignon reproducing piano. One of these recordings of one of her own compositions can be heard here:
[La Chronique Illustré: http://www.journaux-collection.com/fiche.php?id=414001]

Left: "L'air triomphant de cet autre bon gendarme montre qu'il a vaincu éternel adversaire qu'il tient dans cette bolte fermée. Mais l'hydre de l'anarchie relève la tete à chaque tour de zootrope, et, à chaque tour aussi, la physionomie du brave se couvre de nuages." [Very rough translation: The good policeman looks with an air of triumph, as he holds his eternal opponent defeated in a bolted closed box. But the hydra of anarchy [shows] its head at each turn of the zoetrope, and at every turn too, the face of the brave man is covered with clouds.]

This is perhaps a reference to the failure of the authorities to silence Figaro's publisher Villemessant, whose periodicals continued to pop up despite closures and bankruptcies.

Right: "Un bon gendarme poursuit Rocombole..."

Rocambole was the protagonist in a series of stories by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail (1829-1871) first published in daily newspapers between 1857 and 1870, and most likely the first character from popular fiction to feature in a cartoon 'movie'.

(The Projection Box)

The left panel above presents an unusually imaginative subject. "This is a difficult problem to solve. Given an egg, a man and a ball, it is to make the man come out of the egg, passing through the ball and fit the ball back in the egg." Or something like that. I have not seen this strip.


courtesy John Dupret.

Some more subjects imported from Milton Bradley (Gallica.bnf.fr)

The article illustrates how two bands can be combined by overlapping in the drum (above right), suggesting the following combinations:

M. de Villemessant et la petit sauteuse.
M. Rochefort et la gendarme a la boite.
M. Rochefort et M. Adrien Marx.
M. Adrien Marx et l'homme au parapluis.
Mademoiselle Theresa et M. J. Offenbach.
M. Albert Wolf et l'oeuf.
Mademoiselle Theresa et la danseur gigue.
Les valseurs et la toupie.
Le danseur de gigue et la pantin.
Le batonniste et l'homme au paraplui.

A court case: May v. Bauer

In August a court case was heard; a complaint by Mons. May, French zoetrope patentee (agent of Milton Bradley, the American company with rights to William Lincoln's original patent) against a Mons. Bauer, apparently a publisher's manager, with regard to two articles that had appeared in the periodical L'Evénement illustré on 5th May 1868, following the April promotion in Le Figaro of the zoetrope "low price" premium. Monsieur May (in association with the actual manufacturers, Delacour and Bakes) claimed that the articles had severely damaged the promotion, and was after damages.

That's the basic story, but the detail is interesting.

The first article, signed ROGAT, alluded to Figaro's 12 franc zoetrope offer (usual price supposedly 24 francs) and suggested that the toy could be purchased elsewhere for 10 francs. The second article, signed RAOUL DE PRESLES ("apocryphal signature"), was more explicit. This claimed that the "perfected instrument" could be purchased for 10f from "trade houses" (shops), with five addresses given - and further, that the 12f "premium" offered was the "unperfected" model. The writer then claimed: "we believe that we can soon offer it even cheaper" than 10f.

The court notes continue: "Mons. May, who has dealt with MM. Delacour and Backer [sic] for the manufacture and exploitation of this toy, and pledged to keep 5000 available to Le Figaro, found the next day by the report of a bailiff, that none of the listed merchants had zoetropes priced at 10 francs. One offered one at 12 francs, but the bailiff noticed the stamped portrait of Figaro, so it was therefore one of those delivered as a premium, and being resold."

So, May took Bauer (manager) and Raoul de Presles (editor) of L'Evénement to the Tribune, on the grounds that the articles in the paper were likely to "undermine its industry, denigrating its products..." and asserting, "contary to the truth," that cheaper zoetropes could be found at all merchants.

Lawyer PATAILLE stated that the innacurate statements in L'Evénement had had a disastrous effect on his client. In the first week of 27 April to 5 May, he delivered 1,833 zoetropes, while from May 5 subscriptions fell to 250 per week.

And so, evidence for and against continued, dealing with each point in some detail. Finally, the court pronounced that it was possibly a case of fair competition [since L'Evénemente had announced its intention to offer a similar item], that it would not pronounce on that point, but that if any defamation had taken place it was not directed against Monsieur May (the zoetrope licensee), and that any resulting harm was not sufficiently established. The case was dismissed, without costs.

The full article appears on our page Le Figaro court case, 1868.

When I came across this case I was at first puzzled, as I found reference to Villemessant himself being editor of L'Evénement - so tried delving deeper. It seems that in 1866, Le Figaro's editor Villemessant had started a paper entitled L'Evénement, which had included contributions from Emile Zola, but it had been merged into Le Figaro some months later. (The front page caricature towards the top of this page, from La Lune 18 November 1866 depicting Villemessant as Figaro shows Le Figaro's poster pasted over L'Evénement's.) In 1867 or '68 a paper called L'Evénement illustré was launched by a competitor, and this zoetrope fiasco was evidently an attempt to disparage Le Figaro and Le Villemessant. I haven't gone further into who it was who wanted to attack Villemessant, and whether this was just a circulation war or something else, but I suspect there's more to this story.

In April 1869 Monsieur May would take proceedings against a toyshop owner who was selling fake (i.e. unlicensed) zoetropes; that case was also dismissed.

The evidence given in the May v. Bauer case that more than eighteen hundred zoetropes had been dispatched in the first week of the promotion indicates that this toy was quite big business, one that was considered worth going to court to protect - not only in France, but also in Britain, where the licencees (the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company) took proceedings against more than one infringer.

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1. Paul Hadol (1835 in Remiremont - 1875 in Paris) was a French illustrator, draftsman and caricaturist. Hadol collaborated with periodicals such as Le Gaulois, Le Journal Amusant, High Life, Le Charivari, Le Monde Comique, La Vie Parisienne and L'Eclipse (under his real name) and with Mailly and Baillard under the pseudonym White. A former customs employee, he illustrated novels, theater posters, and satire series (Actualités (Actualities), Mon Musée des Souverains (My Museum of Sovereigns), which portrayed the political rulers of his period. During the 1870 war he published La Ménagerie impériale (The Imperial Zoo) - caricatures which placed the heads of members of the disgraced Bonaparte family and their conspirators on the bodies of animals. [Wikipedia]

Charles Albert d'Arnoux (Charles Constant Albert Nicolas d'Arnoux de Limoges Saint-Saens), dit Bertall, (18 décembre 1820 à Paris - 24 mars 1882 à Soyons), est un illustrateur, caricaturiste et graveur français. Il est connu pour avoir été l'un des illustrateurs les plus féconds du XIXe siècle et compte parmi les pionniers de la photographie. Sa famille le destine à l'Ecole polytechnique, mais il choisit d'étudier la peinture et passe plusieurs années dans l'atelier de Michel Martin Drolling, au terme desquelles il décide de se consacrer exclusivement au dessin d'illustration et à la caricature. Sur le conseil de Balzac, qui le protège à ses débuts et dont il est l'un des illustrateurs attitrés, il signe ses oeuvres du nom de Bertall, d'après l'anagramme de son deuxième prénom. Il a été fait Chevalier de la légion d'honneur, 1875. Il dessine pour Le Magasin pittoresque, Le Musée des familles, La Semaine des enfants, Le Journal pour tous, La Bibliothèque des chemins de fer et pour la Bibliothèque rose. Il fournit 3 600 dessins pour Les Romans populaires illustrés publiés en 30 volumes par Gustave Barba entre 1849 et 1855. Il contribue par de nombreuses caricatures à L'Illustration et à La Semaine, au Journal pour rire et au Grelot. Il écrit et illustre également ses propres textes, parmi lesquels notamment La Comédie de notre temps et La Vigne, voyage autour des vins de France. Pionnier de la photographie, il collabore avec Hippolyte Bayard dès 1855, ouvrant ensuite avec lui un atelier, en 1862. Installé à son compte en 1866, il devient un portraitiste à succès. [Wikipedia]

Edme Penauille (c.1840-1871) was a portrait artist and illustrator who contributed to La Chronique Illustrée.