A brilliantly-designed and brutally-effective First World War propaganda map by Maurice Neumont, comparing Germany to a monstrous octopus threatening Europe.
Germany is shown in different shadings of red, indicating its numerous annexations of surrounding territory since 1740, the most recent being the 1871 seizure of Alsace-Lorraine during the Franco-Prussian War. Sprawled across Germany is a large octopus in a Prussian Pickelhaube (spiked helmet), its extended to grasp essentially all of Europe and even Asia Minor. At far right a bar chart of sorts represents the historical growth in the size and ferocity of the Prussian army, from something cartoon-like in the 18th-century (though that hardly does justice to Frederick the Great!) to the massive, looming ogre of the First World War.
The map uses several prominent textual elements to support the visual argument. Superimposed on France is a recent declaration from the Chamber of Deputies: “Invaded 47 years ago, Alsace-Lorraine is no different from the French departments invaded three years ago.” Splashed across the Mediterranean in bright-red letters is a quote from the pan-Germanist “All-Deutscher Verband,” pronouncing that “The German people must rise as a nation of masters above the inferior nations of Europe.” In the lower margin General Petain exhorts the French people “Under attack, we are merely defending ourselves in the name of Liberty and to preserve our lives.”
The earliest use of an octopus motif on a propaganda map was probably on Fred Rose’s Serio-Comic War Map for the Year 1877, where it was used to represent an aggressively imperialist Russia. The motif reappeared many times since, in any number of contexts, representing among others Prussia, Standard Oil, wealthy London landlords, and Winston Churchill.
The poster was drawn by Parisian artist Maurice Neumont (1868-1930) at the behest of “La Conference au Village contre la Propagande ennemie en France.”
“The artist Maurice Neumont produced several famous posters during the course of the First World War, his most celebrated being On Ne Passe Pas! 1914-1918 [None Shall Pass], depicting a resolute French soldier on the battlefield. He worked as a painter and commercial poster artist until his death in 1930. He was awarded the French Légion d’honneur for his propaganda work.” (Curtis & Pedersen, p. 80)
The Conference was established in 1917 for the purpose of advancing the patriotic cause in rural and provincial France by distributing more effective propaganda and countering similar German efforts.
Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1185. Rumsey #8865.
Minor soiling and a few minor mends at edges, but about excellent