Unique manuscript zoomorphic map of Europe, in Chinese and Portuguese

[Anon., after António Soares], MAPA HUMORISTICO DA EUROPA[:] GUERRA—1939. [Macau?, 1939 or soon after].
Manuscript in ink and watercolor, 18”h x 24”w at sheet edge.

A unique manuscript Portuguese-language zoomorphic map of Europe in 1939, with all text translated into Chinese. 

This map is based on one drawn by Portuguese artist António Soares (1894-1978) and published by Livraria Franco just weeks after the invasion of Poland in the Fall of 1939.  It was intended to illustrate the ostensibly neutral Portuguese perspective on the European conflict. Although we do not know who drew the manuscript variant offered here, the added Chinese translations throughout, as well as a key in the lower right, have clearly been added make it accessible to Chinese readers, raising the possibility it was drawn in Portuguese Macau.

The map is dominated by Russia, illustrated as a polar bear of intimidating bulk reaching with its jaws for the small-but-fierce Baltic states and grasping with one paw the Polish bull, which is simultaneously mauled by the back-left paw of the German tiger.  England (a leopard) and France (a lion) face off against Germany, which appears oblivious to the looming threat behind it to the east. Norway and Sweden appear as giraffes, looking fearfully in the direction of Russia.  Further south, Yugoslavia is a kangaroo carrying a tiny baby kangaroo in its pouch, whereas Italy and Armenia appear as massive coiled serpents, ready to strike at the underbelly of Europe. Greece is a slow-moving turtle, while Turkey is a fearsome crocodile.  Among the neutral nations, Switzerland is represented as a docile lamb, while Portugal, whose perspective the map represents, is a vicious podengo, or hunting dog.

The manuscript was almost certainly drawn in East Asia by an East Asian artist. The Chinese calligraphy is elegant and clearly the work of a practiced hand, while the Portuguese text is by contrast clumsy and imitative.  The colors employed, while somewhat similar to those on the printed map, are in tones more common in Asian watercolor than western inks.  The wavy ocean here exhibits a delicate nuanced brushstroke, rather than the uniform lines evident on the printed version.  Further, the rhino used to represent Poland in the printed map is here rendered as a bull, suggesting that the artist was unfamiliar with rhinos, which at the time were not commonly known in China.  Finally, the paper, a thick stock, while not traditional, exhibits characteristics of Asian-made western-style papers used by Japanese and Chinese publishers up to and slightly before the war.

The use of both Portuguese and Chinese on the map strongly suggest it was drawn in Macau, a hypothesis lent further support by that colony’s role in the Second World War. At the time Portugal was under the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar, who proved successful in maintaining the country’s neutrality.  As a consequence Portugal and its overseas colonies, Macau included, became hotbeds of intrigue, where the war was fought via underground trade and espionage rather than through overt violence.  Macau became a refugee center, and its population soared from about 200,000 to nearly 700,000 people within a few years, and, as the only neutral port in East Asia, it enjoyed an economic boom.  These factors led to considerable local interest regarding events in Europe.

This map is owned in partnership with Geographicus Rare Antique Maps.


Scattered cracking and small areas of surface abrasion, some water staining at right, and edge wear all around.