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Mappa Humoristico da Europa

  • Author: SOARES, A (artist)
  • Publisher: 'A Editora' Lda, Lisboa
  • Date: 1914-16?
  • Dimensions: Image: 47.5 x 31.5 cms. Sheet: 48.7 x 32 cms.


One of the most bizarre & curious of zoomorphic propaganda maps of the First World War designed by Portuguese artist A Soares

About this piece:

Mappa Humoristico da Europa [A Humorous Map of Europe]

Printed colour. Narrow margins all round. Top left corner torn away across diagonal just inside border line, as also at lower right corner, much less significantly so, the missing areas replaced with well-matched old paper & printed border lines newly & almost invisibly reinstated in fine manuscript. Paper touched in with wash colours to match surrounding printed background colour. Slight creasing at upper right, with short closed tear. The verso now entirely backed with museum-quality conservation tissue for better preservation/conservation.

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.

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