Detail from “Le Traître” (The Traitor), a lithograph depicting Alfred Dreyfus that is part of a new exhibit on caricature and the Dreyfus Affair in the Rubenstein Library.

Exhibit Reception—Please Join Us!
Date: Wednesday, January 30
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Location: Rubenstein Library Photography Gallery, Rubenstein Library, Duke West Campus (Map)
Contact: Meg Brown, meg.brown@duke.edu, 919-681-2071

Few legal cases in French history have been so decisive, and so divisive, as the twelve-year trial, re-trial and eventual acquittal of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus, a Jewish military officer, was falsely accused in 1894 of selling military secrets to the German army. The trial sparked a flurry of anti-Semitism in the popular press and inspired Émile Zola’s famous open letter of outrage, “J’Accuse!”

A new exhibition in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke examines how the Dreyfus Affair was depicted in the French popular press, with a particular focus on visual illustrations in newspapers and periodicals that covered the trial. A Mockery of Justice: Caricature and the Dreyfus Affair encourages viewers to reconsider the significance of this historical episode that continues to resonate in the present day. As Zola pointed out, the Dreyfus Affair was about more than one man’s guilt or innocence. Also at stake were the very principles upon which the French Republic rested: liberté, égalité, fraternité. More than one hundred years later, the Dreyfus Affair offers a vivid lesson on the dangers of racial prejudice, blind loyalty to the military, and unthinking nationalism.

Cover illustration from “Le Petit Journal” (1895) showing Alfred Dreyfus being stripped of his military honors and titles.

Drawing on the Rubenstein Library’s extensive collection of  late-19th and early 20th-century French periodicals, the exhibit also features a rare series of colorful and attention-grabbing posters that were disseminated throughout Paris at the time. The posters, collectively known as the Musée des Horreurs, were published pseudo-anonymously and feature unflattering caricatures of prominent Jews, Dreyfus supporters, and other individuals involved in the Dreyfus Affair. Another set of posters, known as Musée des Patriotes, glorifies the so-called anti-Dreyfusards, who publicly condemned Dreyfus and sought to undermine his defense.

A complete original set of the Musée des Horreurs and the Musée des Patriotes was recently acquired by the Rubenstein Library and has been digitized in conjunction with the exhibit.

A Mockery of Justice: Caricature and the Dreyfus Affair was sponsored by the Duke Center for Jewish Studies and curated by Alexis Clark, Kathryn Desplanque, and Emilie Anne-Yvonne Luse, doctoral students in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies.

For more information, visit the online exhibit website. To see the complete set of images from the Musée des Horreurs and Musée des Patriotes, visit our digital collections website.

 

Exhibit Details
A Mockery of Justice: Caricature and the Dreyfus Affair
December 12, 2012 – March 9, 2013
Rubenstein Library Photography Gallery
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Click here for map)
Duke University West Campus
Public Hours: Monday-Friday, 8am–7pm; Saturday, 9am–7pm; Sunday, 10am–7pm
Hours may vary during the holidays. Please check our posted library hours for more information.

 

One Response to New Exhibit: Caricature and the Dreyfus Affair

  1. Daniel Griifin says:

    This affair plays a role in Umberto Eco’s recent (and strange) novel “The Prague Cemetery”, which I was able to read because Perkins Library has a copy!

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