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Il Tedesco ha ordito invano la Ragnatela criminosa

  • Author: Gustavo Modiano, Milano
  • Publisher: Gustavo Modiano, Milano
  • Date: c1918
  • Dimensions: sheet: 69 x 97 cms


Rare Italian propaganda poster c1918: the global web of criminal intrigue woven by the German spider in quest for World domination

About this piece:

Il Tedesco ha ordito invano la Ragnatela criminosa

[Germany has woven its criminal spider’s web in vain]

Colour printed propaganda poster, the upper section with map depicting most of the contemporary World, the lower section with detailed explanatory letterpress. Printed on thin wartime issue paper; traces of old folds with minor faults and repaired losses at fold junctures and in blank margins at sheet edges. The entire sheet now entirely backed on fine museum-quality archivist tissue for better preservation & presentation. Rectangular ink stamp “edita dall’Instituto Italo-Britannico, Milano – Via Silvie Pellice 6” at lower centre in blank margin. A nice well-preserved example.

Highly unusual and hard-hitting anti-German propaganda poster published in Italy by the Milanese firm of Gustavo Modiano, seemingly in the final phases of World War One. The last date referenced in the letterpress below the map is the end of 1917, which suggests an earliest publication date of Spring 1918. It is possible that the poster was issued as a rousing morale booster at the time of the April 1918 German Spring Offensive.

The map shows a symbolic large red & black German spider positioned over the German homeland & at the exact centre of a red web of criminal intrigue which has been spun over a map of much of the World, including North & South America, Europe and Asia, as far as China, Japan, the Dutch East Indies and Australia.

As the text below elaborates:

This map is intended to show how Germany, for ambition alone and with the desire to obtain world hegemony, without moral scruples respecting their international obligations, has created such a network of crimes to cover the face of the world…

The numbered letterpress & key below the map, which references each of the individual countries shown, proceeds to detail the bloody & heinous war crimes perpetrated by Germany during the course of the conflict.

For the neutrals, such as Holland, Spain and the Scandinavian countries, this has involved the frequent sinking of their merchant vessels by German submarines and the widespread laying of German mines in neutral harbours & home waters. In other occupied territories, it is repeated stories of civilian atrocities, of frequent rapes & murders, and of the deportation of working men for forced labour at the hands of German invaders. In France reference is made to the lack of respect shown by Germany towards the Red Cross and its medical staff and to Germany’s immoral & unjustified bombardments of civilian hospitals and churches. In respect of the British Isles, we read of the German targeting of civilians in naval and aerial bombardments of British cities and ports, of the infamous sinking of the Lusitania with the loss of 1400 lives & of the fomenting of rebellion in Ireland. Indeed the fomenting of local discontent & native rebellion and the attempted destabilisation of local financial systems in  British colonies and in other regions sympathetic to the Allied cause are much-repeated accusations levelled against Germany within the text. In relation to the United States, the text lays bear an extensive German spy network and numerous sabotage plots that had resulted in several serious explosions & “very many American victims”. And since the end of 1917 German submarines had targeted and unlawfully sunk 11 American ships.  In Canada, it is a German plot to blow up & block the Welland Canal (in 1914) and other canals feeding the St Lawrence River. Again the text highlights an extensive German spy network and the destructive handiwork of German saboteurs, most notably the bomb attacks on the armouries at Windsor, Ontario (in 1915). In Mexico, reference is made to the content of the infamous Jan 1917 Zimmerman telegram which had laid bear German plans for a Mexican alliance in the event of war with America and on the basis of which German support would be offered in exchange for Mexico’s military reconquest of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It was these revelations which finally precipitated America’s entry into the War on the Allied side on April 6th 1917.