Anthropomorphic Maps of Europe at War (1870/1914)

Designed by the German-Jewish artist Walter Trier in 1914, this cartoon map shows the state of the world at the outbreak of World War I and the angst of the Central Powers. Austria-Hungary and Germany fight in a flanked position, using arms and legs to repel aggressors. Their forces are surrounded — Russia unlocks its jaws to consume Central Europe — and save for the “good will” in Switzerland, few kind things are said about the rest of the continent in the captions. The wide-eyed personification of Italy looks slightly hobbled by its cartographic boot; refusing to commit offensive troops, the country is labeled as a fickle friend: “faithful unto death — to the victor”. Montenegro and Serbia, allied with the Triple Entente, are, respectively, a “gang of rascals” and a “gang of pigs”. France “bravely retreats” while Spain “indulges in idleness”. With the world falling apart, everything looks good in Sicily for a moment — there is “volcanic soil”, but otherwise it’s “very quiet”. Published as a fundraising effort for the national Red Cross, 10% of the sales were directed to the humanitarian organization.

The map was published alongside an older cartoon, newly printed — an 1870 French woodcut by Paul Hadol, depicting the state of Europe during the Franco-Prussian War. In this earlier image, some things have changed, but the tenor remains recognizable. As Michael Wintle writes in Eurocentrism (2020), the tradition of these anthropomorphic maps “shows a degree of childish enmity between nation states, and indeed — in [their] humorous way — the potentiality for armed conflict because of adolescent egos.” France and Prussia bludgeon each other — the latter represented by the bloated body of Otto von Bismarck, his right hand on the Netherlands, poised to dominate all foes. Ignored by a distracted Europe, Russia eyes the West, and is described in German as “Knecht Ruprecht”, the manservant of Saint Nicholas, and a “croque-mitaine”, or bogeyman, in French — “a beggar trying for anything to fill his basket”. On the other hand, Turkey puffs a hookah while a cigarette-smoking Spanish lady reclines leisurely against Portugal, seemingly unbothered by the conflict. Britain is also feminized, and too consumed with keeping a tight lease on Ireland, rendered as a dog, to turn its focus eastward. At the bottom of the map, a bayoneted rifle is both sinister and sardonic, labeled “degrees of longitude”.

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Born in Prague in 1890 and passing away in Ontario, Canada, in 1951, Walter Trier studied at the Royal Academy in Munich before moving to Berlin, where he would make his name as a children’s book illustrator. His final work published in mainland Europe was an illustrated edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (1933). After the Nazi rise to power, Trier’s satire and Jewish heritage made him a marked man — stormtroopers showed up at the offices of the humor magazine Simplicissimus, warning him not to depict Hitler in a negative light. He emigrated to London soon after, where he worked for the humor magazine Lilliput, contributed more than eighty covers to the New Yorker, and played an important role in the war effort. In 1942, Trier wrote and designed a leaflet, Nazi-German in 22 Lessons, for the British Ministry of Information, which was airdropped by the Royal Air Force across his former homeland. Later in life, Walt Disney offered to employ him as an animator. Trier declined, refusing to work under a corporate sign.

For another 1870 satirical map with similar themes, see this map by Arnold Neumann.

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Europeana, 1914-18