Friday, May 28, 2010

Mardi Gras Designs

Mistick Krewe of Comus 1873 'Missing Links' Parade Costume Designs
Mistick Krewe of Comus 1910 Float Designs

New Orleans, Louisiana

Sea Nettle and Bat by Charles Briton 1873
Sea Nettle and Bat

Sea Dragon and Coral Polyp by Charles Briton 1873
Sea Dragon and Coral Polyp

Fly and Spider by Charles Briton 1873
Fly and Spider

Snail and Leech drawings by Charles Briton 1873
Snail and Leech

Alligator and Zebra by Charles Briton 1873
Alligator and Zebra

Salamander and Lobster by Charles Briton 1873
Salamander and Lobster

Wild Boar and African Elephant by Charles Briton 1873
African Elephant and Wild Boar

  • Comus is the Greek god of revelry, merrymaking and festivity. He was the son and cup-bearer of the god Dionysus.
  • Krew is an organisation that puts on a parade or ball for the Carnival season (New Orleans Mardi Gras and some other carnival sites in the US).
  • Mistick Krewe of Comus is a New Orleans Carnival krewe founded in 1856 - prior to this, Carnival celebrations in New Orleans were mostly confined to the Roman Catholic Creole community, and parades were organised informally.

Tulane University Libraries has (so far) contributed two digital collections from their Carnival research works to the Louisiana Digital Library. [via]

Above, sample drawings from the Mistick Krewe of Comus 1873 'Missing Links' Parade Costume Designs {browse} [the collection contains 101 sketches]
"This collection is the complete set of costume design drawings for the 1873 Mystick Krewe of Comus "Missing Links" parade. It was an important event in New Orleans' Mardi Gras history, becoming one of the first major parades to use satire and political commentary.

That year, there were no floats, but the members paraded in costumes made of papier-mache, based on the drawings in this collection. A Swedish lithographer, Charles Briton, made the designs. [..] The official name of the parade was "The Missing Links to Darwin's Origin of Species". [..]

Many of the images depict figures related to the Civil War and Reconstruction, such as Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Butler, and Louisiana Governor Henry Warmoth. Also depicted are notable figures such as Charles Darwin, and Algernon Badger (head of the Metropolitan Police)."

The images below are from the Mistick Krewe of Comus 1910 float designs {browse}
"This collection is the complete set of float design drawings by Jennie Wilde for the 1910 Comus Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Louisiana. [..]

Jennie Wilde (1865-1913) was an artist who designed floats for many New Orleans Mardi Gras parades, including the Mistick Krewe of Comus and the Knights of Momus. The theme of the 1910 Comus parade was the Prophet Mahomet (Muhummad) and related subjects."

UPDATE: Recommended by a commenter: 'Mardi Gras New Orleans' by Henri Schindler, 1997.

Comus 1910

The Cock 1910
The Cock

The Koran 1910
The Koran

Cadijah 1910

Habib the Wise 1910
Habib the Wise

Reward of the Faithful 1910
Reward of the Faithful

The Mystic Shrine 1910
The Mystic Shrine


Unknown said...

wow. really cool images/illustrations.

zoe said...

wow! what an amazing post, and a lot to go dig into...thank you!

cj said...

this is awesome. I organize a mardi gras carnival here in Pittsboro, NC, and if there's no restrictions would love to incorporate some of these designs into next years festival...

peacay said...

cj, you'll need to talk to the people at the Tulane University library (the 'via' link above).

Unknown said...

Fantastic stuff! Thanks for brightening my day with this post.

Tere Kirkland said...

Gotta love the ldl. I was a big part of getting stuff from THNOC on that site.

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Marvelous! Thank you.

Jacob W. Dillow said...

Oh man *drool* I love costumes and i love it when the costume designs can be art work in their own right. Theres a lot of inspiration in these

Professor Estevez said...

Possibly the best post ever...

Cece said...

Very wonderful and timely post, especially considering the dire future many of these amphibious, local creatures are facing.

K said...


Curious Art said...

How do you come UP with these wonders???? I'm absolutely squealing with pleasure right now!

peacay said...

How do you come UP with these wonders?

Wedges. An array of wedges placed under the tubes tips the internet at juuuuust the right angle so that things fall onto my desktop. It's like fishing with dynamite.

Lady Meerkat said...

[lol @ peacay]
One of my favourite posts ever. Will most likely be my favourite of this month ;)

Curious Art said...

Ahaha! I've gotta get me some o' them net-wedges... wait, never mind, no need... I'll just do my fishing here. ;)

Lango Aurelian said...

To all: If you love this post go to

Find the book "Mardi Gras New Orleans" by Henri Schindler ( published by Flammarion ) It is replete with images as beautiful as these and accompanied by first rate scholarship on the history of Carnival in New Orleans written in a beautifully effervescent style.

The artist of the float design is Jennie Wilde, "High Priestess of Art Nouveau".......... a goddess herself.

peacay said...

Thanks Lango.

Here's the book: 'Mardi Gras New Orleans' by Henri Schindler, 1997.

Chris Buzelli said...

These are fantastic! Reminds me a bit of Blake and Darger. I'm watching the New Orleans tv series Treme right now as the King creates his Parade Costume. Thanks for the post Paul.

Mr. Kimberly said...

These are great. I can only imagine what it must have been like seeing these come down the street.

Houston. TX used to have the No-Tsu-Oh parade from 1899 to WW1.

It was smaller and doesn't appear to be as extravagant as Mardi Gras at its height. I hope to find more online about it, but the pickings are slim.

Unknown said...

I feel like Mardi Gras isn't authentic unless it's in Louisiana...
Because other places don't really have that heritage, I feel like they don't fully understand the point of it, just saying..

peacay said...

You realise that the American dimension to the tradition of celebration and carnival prior to the fasting of Lent is but a small blip on a very long timeline right? And that such tradition stretches back to ancient Rome, and the present form/style of Mardi Gras celebration began in the Middle Ages after the Reformation right? Right!??
Just sayin'..

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