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Mappa Humoristico da Europa

  • Author: SOARES, A (artist)
  • Publisher: 'A Editora Lda', Lisbon
  • Date: 1914/16?
  • Dimensions: sheet: 51 x 35 cms / map: 47.5 x 31 cms


One of the most bizarre & curious of zoomorphic propaganda maps of the First World War. A Soares, Lisbon, c1914/16

About this piece:

Mappa Humoristico da Europa [A Humorous Map of Europe]

Colour-printed lithograph. Thick paper evenly toned to a light brown hue on recto, the surface with slight sheen as if perhaps specially varnished or treated to make more water-resistant or durable. Some vertical creasing & light soiling to surface.  Two or three barely visible minor cosmetic repairs to short tears & surface thinnings in left border and in lower left of map image, without loss. Filled hole in upper blank margin. With oval ink stamp of “Vasconcellos & Cna, Tabacaria Africana, 254/256 Rua 31 de Janeiro, Porto” in lower right corner. A further blue imprint in right side margin indicates that the map is the 3rd edition.

Without doubt one of the strangest and most curious of zoomorphic satirical maps produced in the First World War, this “humorous map of Europe” was designed by the Portuguese artist, A Soares, and published as a separate broadsheet in Lisbon by “A Editora Lda”. The date of publication is unclear though it may perhaps have been issued in early 1916, following Portugal’s entry into the War on the side of the Allied Powers.

The map depicts the combatant and neutral nations of Europe as a menagerie of curious & exotic animals, bearing little relationship to traditional zoomorphic caricatures & oft-recycled satirical stereotypes supposedly reflecting the “national character” of respective European countries.

Spain, France and Russia are perhaps the most readily identifiable as Bull, Lion and Bear respectively, though the Russian bear is here of the Polar variety. Characterized by aggression & cunning, the Central Powers appear as the German Tiger & Austro-Hungarian Wolf, both under sustained & bloody attack from surrounding foes. Belgium is a docile stag, its hind quarters being voraciously consumed by the German Tiger. Holland is a docile cow, Denmark an equally quiet goat, and Norway & Sweden a cosy pair of beady-eyed badgers. Britain is a powerful leopard, springing across the Channel.  Switzerland is a docile lamb, Italy & Romania potentially dangerous coiled snakes, Montenegro a wild cat, Albania a white rabbit, Greece a turtle, Bulgaria a jackal, Turkey a crocodile and perhaps, most curious of all, Serbia an aggressive kangaroo. Last but not least, Portugal is depicted in canine form, perhaps a large Portuguese Podengo or hunting dog.

Portugal entered the war in March 1916, in the wake of growing tensions with Germany, particularly in her African colonies. She subsequently sent two Divisions of troops (CEP) & a Corps of Heavy Artillery (CAPI) to France in Feb 1917. Her 60,000 troops were poorly reinforced & sustained very heavy casualties during the German 1918 Spring offensive, particularly at the Battle of La Lys (Estaires) in April 1918.

The map was sold or distributed by the firm of Vasconcellos who ran the Tabacaria Africana, 254-256  Rua 31 de Janeiro in Porto, a distinctive 19th Century corner-positioned shop with large display windows at the top of this hilly thoroughfare. The shop offered newspapers, books, stationery products, local tourist postcards and, no doubt, much else besides. Photographs of the 1930’s show it still in operation amid Porto’s bustling pavements & passing trams and the building remains a notable local landmark.

Another example of this map features in the British Library’s major Exhibition, Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line (Nov 2016-March 2017)