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Tusche, tone and stone: 19th C. news illustration

L'Assiette au Beurre #90: December 20, 1902
A special issue on "The Boss" (Le Singe)

Often, L'Assiette au Beurre devoted a single issue to a specific topic. Such is the case with this December 20, 1902 issue on the topic of The Boss (Le Singe).

Adolphe Willette (1857-1926) illustrated the whole issue, which is reproduced here in its entirety.

Willette's work was also included in the special issue on the adulteration of milk. Despite a seemingly progressive attitude toward the poor, the workers and women, Willette was apparently an anti-Semite. An informative, well illustrated history of anti-Semitism, including a Willette poster he created when, it would seem, he ran for public office in 1898 as an "anti-Semitic candidate" is found at Beyond the Pale.

Right: On the cover, the white colonialist, his daughter and wife, take their ease and watch as an African overseer whips another African, who looks to us, the viewers, perhaps in surprise that we are doing nothing to help him.

Most of the double page spreads in this issue each contain a single, highly narrative image, reflective of the wide variety of situations that involve those in positions to exploit (the bosses) and the exploited (slaves, women, miners, etc.).

Willette takes the notion of the double page spread even further, and suggests that the first 12 pages (6 images), and possibly more, can be read as one long parade of exploiters and exploited. He starts with the judicial system, various religions and the military. As the pages turn, the parade continues, evolving into a coffle of women and then laborers and miners, some of whom are being blown up, even as they are driven along. Here is seen the first suggestion of the rope they are all pulling. The festooned rope and patriotism lead to the final image in the parade: le Singe (the monkey-boss).

To give an idea of how these pages follow, one upon the other, making an infamous parade, they are shown below as a single, horizontal thumbnail. You will have to scroll horizontally to see all the images.
Select any image to enlarge. Use your browser's 'back' button to return.

Continue to read this issue of L'Assiette au Beurrenext page