[February 19, 2010
Émile Cohl: Ils sont passés devant les nez déconfits (They pass by the depressed noses)
The MePri-Collections holds the original of a coloured poster, signed by Emile Cohl. Pierre Courtet-Cohl, the grandson of Emile Cohl was so kind to examine this large cartoon (84 x 49 cm) and it turned out, that the drawing was not only authentic, but also – as far as known – the only surviving example of a huge series of 300 poster referring to weekly topics. At the time of our correspondence Pierre Courtet-Cohl was involved with the supervision and editing of two substantial publications on the work of his grandfather. The MePri made an image of Cohl´s poster available for reproduction causes . „Ils sont passés devant les nez déconfits” was also shown in an important retrospective at the Musée-Château in Annecy, France, ”L’esprit d’Emile Cohl” in 2008. (1 June-31 October). While preparing this exhibition, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first animated film and while editing the catalogue, Pierre Courtet-Cohl passed away.
Here is his letter, in which he interprets the drawing and thus gives an example not only of the hermetic imagery of his grandfather, but also of the idiosyncratic modes, in which daily topics were represented in the French caricatures of the late 19th and early 20th century.
To the Melton Prior Institut
(…) I try to explain the story of this poster, which I could reconstruct because of the size of the document. I noted that it was much larger than the drawings usually made by my grand-father. So I came to the conclusion, that it must have been a poster. Emile Cohl has made thousands of drawings in his life, but only a few posters, except between 1926 and 1933, after having finished to work for the cinema. During this period he earned a little money by finishing a new poster each week for a friend who owned a shop in the center of Paris, “High Life Taylor”, at the corner of the rue de Richelieu and the boulevard Montmartre. The intention was to attract the customers. It seems that it has been a good idea, as he ceased only when his friend, the owner of the shop died, after seven years and about 300 posters.
I still remember my mother explaining to me, – as Emile Cohl lived with my parents -, that every week she bent over the shoulder of her father-in-law to admire the drawing he was preparing for “High Life Taylor”. What surprises me is that nobody, neither my mother, nor my father, nor my grand-father came up with the idea of saving and keeping the posters when they had been replaced by the following ones. I never saw not even one specimen of such a poster, which is even more astonishing as Emile Cohl has left us many archives .
In these archives, I have found only a list of all the drawings, with the dates, he had done for “High Life Taylor”. Each poster usually referred to a current event of the past week. Searching “Ils sont passés devant les nez déconfits”, I have found that it been drawn in the first week of March 1930. This can be confirmed by the French history of this period, saying that there has been a new government on the 2nd of March of this year. Of course, all the wallets with their little wings are ministry portfolios, and the noses are those of the politicians who had hoped vainly to become ministers.
Pierre Courtet-Cohl, 3.9.2007
Publications on Emile Cohl:
Donald Crafton: Émile Cohl, Caricature, and Film. Princeton 1990
Pierre Courtet-Cohl / Bernard Génin ed.: Émile Cohl : L’inventeur du dessin animé. Sophia-Antipolis 2008 (includes 2 Dvds with a comprehensive selection of his animated films)
Pascal Vimenet ed.: Émile Cohl. Annecy 2008
Emile Cohl: „Ils sont passés devant les nez déconfits”, March 1930 (MePri-Collection)
Further Examples of Ministerial Portfolios and Weird Nosery
André Gill: The harvest (of the elections) of 1872. L´Eclipse. 18.08.1872 (MePri-Collection)
Alfred Le Petit, Le Grelot, 30.3.1873 (MePri-Collection)
Alfred Le Petit, Le Grelot, 3.8.1873 (MePri-Collection)
Emile Cohl, La Nouvelle Lune, 28.8.1881 (MePri-Collection)