Die Strassen von Frankfurt a/Main
- Author: Anonymous
- Date: c1910-1915
- Dimensions: 15 x 22.5 cms
From the collection of French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, a rare piece cartographic erotica designed as a street map of Frankfurt
About this piece:
Die Strassen von Frankfurt a/Main
Wood engraving. Uncoloured. Central horizontal fold. Fine example. Decorative ownership stamp of Guillaume Apollinaire (G A) to lower corner verso, with faint see-through to recto.
This remarkable piece of German cartographic erotica, from the private collection of the influential early 20th Century French poet and playwright, Guillaume Apollinaire [1889-1918], whose distinctive ownership stamp appears on the sheet verso, presents a street plan of the City of Frankfurt-am-Main in the form of an engraving of a naked woman attired only in feathered hat, long dark gloves, leather boots and walking cane. From head to foot, her physical features are presented as roads, thoroughfares, buildings and viewpoints in the contemporary Frankfurt streetscape, many in the form of humorous double entendres & contextual puns.
This map bears close stylistic similarities to another German design entitled Neuster Plan von Berlin published in Hannover in 1918-19. This latter example depicts a reclining naked woman whose named features in this instance replicate those found on a street plan of contemporary Berlin.
Guillaume Apollinaire is one of the most influential of modern French poets. Originally of Lithuanian-Polish descent, he was probably born in Rome, where he was baptized, and was subsequently educated in Monaco at the Lycée Saint-Charles. His mother, Angelica de Kostrowitzky, was a demimondaine, seemingly kept by a string of wealthy lovers, in whose company she lived in Rome and later in the infamous gambling haunts of Nice & Monaco. Her father had been a valet to the Pope and though family legend claimed Apollinaire’s father was a Roman aristrocrat, many of his Parisian friends believed him to be the illegitimate son of a Roman prelate. His enduring reputation was established on two volumes of poems, Alcools  and Calligrammes , which radically overturned the traditions of nineteenth-century poetry in terms of both form and content. He introduced free verse, eliminated punctuation, and even wrote poems in the form of pictures & drawings as expressions of the freedom & dynamism of the new twentieth century.
A resident of bohemian Montmartre and friend of numerous artists, including Picasso & Braque, he wrote The Cubist Painters , which first defined the true nature of cubism. He also was amongst the first to coin the term surrealism in 1917. In addition, from 1909 he helped edit for the Bibliotheque des Curieux, a collection of important erotic books, also assisting in the cataloguing of a repository of “forbidden books” in the Bibliothèque Nationale. Apollinaire’s explicit sexual eroticism is further revealed in Letters to Madeleine, a collection of until recently private, unpublished wartime correspondence between the poet and his lover Madeleine Pagès, a teacher of literature, whom he met on a train in October 1915.
After being repeatedly refused French naturalisation, influential friends managed to secure his French citizenship through registration for the French army at the beginning of World War I. He finally enlisted in Nice in December 1914, initially serving with the 38th Artillery. Interestingly his military registration form notes that he spoke good German and that he was “a good enough walker [who] knows the Belgian and Prussian forest and the Rhineland region between Köln and Koblenz for having crossed them on foot”.
It seems more than probable that he acquired this map during his youthful walking tours of Germany during the pre-war years.
Wounded in the trenches in Picardy in March 1916. Pablo Picasso painted his portrait soon afterwards, the convalescent soldier with bandaged head & Legion d’Honneur medal proudly pinned to his chest. His later war service was as a military censor based in Paris. His remarkable life came to a tragically premature end during the Spanish influenza epidemic of November 1918. Aged just 38, he passed away in his Paris apartment just two days before the Armistice.
In recent years and particularly in this centenary period, it is Apollinaire’s position as one of France’s foremost war poets that has become more widely acknowledged, whilst his death has come to symbolize the wider sacrifice of the many foreigners and over 500 poets & writers who died fighting for France during the course of World War One.
Apollinaire’s distinctive ownership stamp, printed in the lower right corner of the verso of the sheet, features a shield bearing his initials G A placed either side of a central allegorical motif depicting a snake entwined around an arrow and clasping a rose in its mouth.
We have been unable to trace any other examples of this map or discover any additional information about its precise publication date & origins. Its interesting provenance & personal association with Apollinaire would probably be rewarded by further detailed research and investigation.