22.8.19

Aesthetic Thursday: Design Art from the Krewe of Proteus from the 1892 Mardi Gras in New Orleans


"A Dream of the Vegetable Kingdom" — Proteus Pageant of 1892
I have a wonderful postcard of a fairy man that my mother sent me. I'm guessing he is the king of Proteus. He holds a scepter with what appears to be a butterfly at the end. In fact, he's more butterfly than fairy — as can be seen by the gorgeous decal of a butterfly pinned to his chest, and the butterfly adorned on his crown and the sheer fact that he's wearing butterfly wings. His boots are also butterfly-decorated and he is wearing a cape and white leggings. He has a turn-of-the-century mustache that was popular for men at the turn-of-the-century and he seems ready for a magical evening.  
Water-color from Tulane University Special Collections
"Proteus, No. 1"
New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewes Are Part of the City's History
The image is of a costume watercolor design for select members of the Mystic Krewe of Proteus — a now-defunct Mardi Gras men's pleasure group. The watercolor has been preserved by the folks at Tulane University's Special Collections Library. The university has amassed a wide assortment of what they call their "Carnival Holdings". This costume, which is in the collection, was designed for the pageant that year — in 1892. Mardi Gras krewes are typically famous for their public parades that entertain citizens of the city with illustrious floats that traverse the city at night and garner people with "throws" — but lesser-known is the glamourous pageants that krewe-members organized every year. They were often masked balls for the upper crust of the city — I say past tense as if they do not occur anymore. In fact, one of the hottest tickets for any socialite in New Orleans is one of these balls or pageants. I have a fabulous picture of my mother and great grandmother at one of these balls. They are truly a feature of New Orleans history — and this winged fairy man, part of Proteus's theme for that year — "A Dream of the Vegetable Kingdom" is highly inspired. I'd wear it!
source: Carlotta Bonnecaze, "Proteus, No. 1," water-color costume design for Proteus pageant, 1892: "Dream of the Vegetable Kingdom" / Schindler, Henri. Mardi Gras Treasures: Costume Designs of the Golden Age. Gretna, La: Pelican Pub. Co, 2002. Print.

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