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Les Images Vivantes and Le Cinématographe Enfantin

Les Images Vivantes Petites Tableaux Animé

French, 22.5cm diameter blue cardboard zoetrope, turned beech stand, 28 cm high
(20th WestLicht Photographica Auction)

Left: Purple card drum on turned ebonised wood stand
Right: Different graphics on lid. (Left: Technisches Museum Wien Right: Antiq-Photo )

Left: Strips supplied with "Les Images Vivantes" zoetrope (Private collection)
Right: The ogre fountain, Berne. (awaiting permission)

The centre strip shown here (which reads from right to left) shows a naked, devil-tailed gentleman with goatee and moustache eating a succession of small black people. Could this be a version of the subject of the Ogre Fountain in Bern, Switzerland? Or perhaps a variation on the Spanish festival giant "El Traganinos". The French company Heeza once distributed a modern Spanish flip book with that title, based on images from this zoetrope strip.

Left: Pages from the modern flip book El Traganinos, derived from the zoetrope strip (Heeza)
Right: King Leopold II of Belgium. Caricature, King Leopold's Soliloquy: A Defense of His Congo Rule, by Mark Twain (Boston: P.R. Warren Co., 1905). (Wikipedia Commons)

When I showed an animated version of this at a lecture some years ago, a member of the audience afterwards suggested that the figure represented King Leopold II of Belgium, who was directly or indirectly responsible for exploitation, atrocities, and the deaths of perhaps 10 million native people in the Congo. His beard here seems a bit skimpy compared with most portraits but this was no doubt a good facial likeness c.1870s, and does seem the most likely key to the representation. So this is a very bitter political satirical image. This strip was supplied with a "Les Images Vivantes" zoetrope, but could have originated with another company.

Le Cinématographe Enfantin

(François Binétruy Collection)

The Cinématographe Enfantin was evidently a name given to this version of the toy post-1895, when the Lumière Cinématographe was introduced. This particular example has a most interesting central label, featuring a clown using a zoetrope as part of a stage performance. This seems unlikely, given problems with adequate lighting alone, and I'm not aware of any such usage - but it's certainly an intriguing image.

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