Gung Ha Fat Choy – Gong Xi Fa Cai

dogpawtext [Converted]With the appearance of the new moon last evening a goodly portion of the world’s population welcomed in a New Year: the year of the Earth Dog – Wu-Xu, the 35th year in the 60 year cycle of the Chinese Calendar. And though we tend to think of it as Chinese Festival it is celebrated with many of the same traditions in other countries in Asia – Tết Nguyên Đán, the Feast of the First Morning of the First Day in Vietnam began today. And in one form or other the New Year is observed in Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia – and almost any place where there is a large Asian presence.

And of course people are turning to the Asian Zodiac for predictions for the New Year.

A left click will take you to your horoscope for the Year of the Dog – keeping in mind that the management is not responsible for what the future does or does not deliver.

You will notice that there are twelve animals in the Asian Zodiac.  However have you ever noticed that one animal is conspicuous by its absence:  the cat.  The dog, her traditional enemy is there as is the rat, her traditional prey.  But unless you count the tiger there is no tabby present amongst the sacred twelve.  Where in does lie a story.

At one time the Dog, Rat, and Cat were great friends – wherever one was seen the other two were sure to be nearby.  One day the Jade Emperor decided to create a map of the sky or Zodiac to guide his earthly subjects.  A message was sent out to all the animal kingdom commanding that they present themselves at the Celestial Throne.  It was further decreed that the first twelve animals to arrive would be honoured with stars on the Zodiac along with the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

All the animals were in a state of excitement and none more so than than the three friends.  Unfortunately the Cat had a bad habit of oversleeping but assumed that her two friends would wake her when the time came to set out.  In their excitement – and in their desire to be the first – the Dog and the Rat forgot about waking their friend and at the appointed hour set off.  Along the road to the Celestrial Throne they met the Horse, Tiger, Ox, Snake and other animals.  All the animals wanted to be honoured with a place on the Heavenly map;  however like many travellers a few got delayed or waylaid by adventures, or sometimes misadventures.  But those stories would be for another time as our concern is for the trio of friends.

Surrounded by his Celestial court the Jade Emperor awaits the arrival of the animals that will make up the Heavenly Map that decrees the fate of mortals.

The Rat noticed that the Ox seemed to be making the greatest progress and being a bit of a sly one he pleaded weariness and ask for a ride on the Ox’s back.  The Ox agreed provided the Rat would help the hours pass with singing (rats being known for their glorious voices and endless repertoire of songs and ballads).  The Rat, who loved to sing and indeed knew a number of songs, climbed on the Ox and proceed to entertain his burly transporter all the way to the portals of the Jade Emperor’s Throne Room.  Only once did he interrupt his carolling: he saw his friend the Dog and called out to him but the Dog was occupied with chasing a stick that was being thrown by a little boy and did not answer him.

Meanwhile back at their home the Cat aroused herself from her slumber, stretched, licked her paws, and looked around.  Where were her friends?  Then she remembered – the Zodiac, the Jade Emperor, the journey to the Celestial Throne.  Her friends had forgotten her!  Without even pausing to groom herself further she took off.

As the Ox approached the presence of the Jade Emperor he gave a little snort,  he was almost assured of first place as the other animals were lagging behind.  But as they reached the portals of the Celestial Throne Room the Rat jumped off his back and scurried across the room, ran up to the feet of the Jade Emperor and made his references.  The Jade Emperor declared him the first animal of the Zodiac.  The Rat, always a bit full of himself, resisted the urge to stick out his tongue at the animals behind him as he was led to a place of honour.  The Ox was not pleased but it would have been impolite to snarl and stomp in the presence of the Celestial Gods and since he was a placid creature by nature he accepted his place with quiet dignity.  The other animals followed: the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Ram, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog and the Pig.

An unique Chinese painting of a cat waiting in ambush. The painting is signed and dated by Ji Biao, on the fifth day of the New Year of jimao (30/1/1819).  It was believed that painting cats on this very day would ensure the protection of the household from pests throughout the year. V&A Collection

Our friend the Dog was a little disappointed when the Jade Emperor failed to notice the stick he had dropped at his feet but wagged his tail with joy at being amongst the chosen.  The Pig, who had stopped for final roll in a mud puddle and had to wash before entering the Celestial presence, had just placed his snout on the foot of the Jade Emperor when our friend the Cat came scampering across the crystal floor.  But she was too late, if only by a whisker.

Cat turned and glared at her two untrustworthy friends.  Dog, not always the quickest of beasts, approached his old friend expecting her to full well rejoice in his good fortune.  He was startled when she hissed at him and showed her sharp claws.  He made several other approaches but each time was rebuffed by his former friend. When Rat saw the greeting Dog was getting he scurried away hotly pursued by the Cat bent on having her revenge.  The chase caused a small uproar in the Celestial Throne Room and it was noted that the Jade Emperor was seen to frown.

We do not know if Cat caught Rat on that occasion but we do know that the bond of friendship that had encircled the friends had been broken.  Cat’s ancestors have never forgiven Dog and Rat for their duplicity.  To this very day when a dog approaches a cat they are often rebuffed in the rudest manner and fights have been known to break out sometimes with sad results.  And as for rats, well we know their fate if caught by a cat.


On this day in 1863: A group of citizens of Geneva founded an International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, which later became known as the International Committee of the Red Cross.



I Love A Parade – IV

February 24, 1914 – New Orleans

During the Golden Age there was a set protocol to the order in which the rival Krewes paraded and held their tableaux balls.  Though some of the festivities began as early as 12th Night the four major Krewes saved their celebrations for the seven days prior to Ash Wednesday.   The Mardi Gras week began on the Thursday evening with the Knights of Momus parade and bal masque; Lunedi Gras evening it was the the turn of the Krewe of Proteus; Mardi Gras morning brought the Rex Parade; and that evening saw the last parade of Mardi Gras by Comus, the first Krewe to parade back in 1857.

In 1885 Comus decided not to parade.  For the next five years he did not make an appearance on the streets of New Orleans and Proteus appropriated the Mardi Gras evening.  When Comus resumed in 1890 the confrontation between the Captains of the two Krewes took place on Canal Street.  Though Comus won the night Proteus did insist on parading on Shrove Tuesday the following year and then went back to his traditional Monday night.

The 1890 parade – Paligenesis – was the only time that Comus used the designs of Bror Anders Wikstrom.  In 1891 the Krewe began a longtime association with one of the acknowledged greats of Mardi Gras design:  Virginia Wilkinson Wilde (1865-1913).  Jennie Wilde came from a distinguished Irish Catholic family of poets, artists, writers, and jurists.  Known as an illustrator, painter and poet, her murals adorned the interior of the long ago demolished Church of Notre Dame de Bon Secours on Jackson Avenue.  Her style was strongly influenced by the pomp and ceremony of her Catholic upbringing, and the Art Nouveau and Orientalism movements popular at the time.  Over the twenty-four years she was called upon by the Captain of Comus to design themes as diverse as Nippon, Land of the Rising Sun (1892), A Leaf from the Mahabrata (1903), Tennyson (1907), Familiar Quotations (1911), and Time’s Mysteries (1913)

The 1905 Carnival Edition for the Krewe of Momus parade – one of the most daring that Jennie Wilde created.  A click on the picture will take you to the Louisiana Digital Library image where you can zoom in for close ups on some of the gloriously exotic floats she designed for the scandalous Vahtek.

She also designed for the Krewe of Momus; one of her more daring themes was the 1905 Momus pageant based on Vathek, Ninth Caliph of the Abassides.  This wildly exotic and erotic fantasy had scandalized all England when William Beckford published it in 1786.  One has to wonder how much of her audience had ever heard of, let alone read, this rather obscure novel but it gave her great scope to combine her love of Art Nouveau and Orientalism.

Of all the Krewes Comus was the most secretive: membership and the identity of Comus and his Captain were closely guarded.  However unlike Charles Briton, Carlotta Bonnecaze, and Bror Anders Wikstrom whose Carnival histories were not revealed until long after their deaths, the name of Jennie Wilde was widely known and celebrated.  After her second parade in 1892 the Picayune carried a report of her being acknowledged at the Comus bal masque with the gift of a jewelled necklace and bejewelled cloak.  And on the occasion of the Comus Golden Anniversary celebration at the culmination of the Masque of Comus  parade and bal masque she was presented with a copy of Comus’ chalice in crystal with the date inlaid in silver.

To celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the Krewe of Comus Jennie Wilde went back to the roots of their name:  John Milton’s The Masque of Comus.

As the 1913 festivities came to an end Jennie Wilde presented her detailed drawings for the following year: twenty float designs, one hundred and nine parade costumes and innumerable accessory, mask, and ball paraphernalia.  The theme was to be Tales from Chaucer.  When she left on her vacation to England that summer neither she nor S. P. Walmsley, the legendary Captain of Comus, could foresee that it was to be the last pageant she would design for the Krewe.  She took ill in late summer and died in September at a convent in England.  When her last parade took to it’s time honoured path on February 24, 1919 she had been laid to rest in the family vault at Metairie Cemetery.

When the Krewe of Comus returned to parading in 1924 choose to recreated Jennie Wilde’s 1909 spectacle Flights of Fancy.  On it’s first appearance the parade had been spoiled by a violent thunder storm.  A click on the picture will take you to the Louisiana Digital Library image where you can zoom in for close ups of floats that were acknowledged as amongst the best she ever created.

However when they failed to find a suitable designer Walmsley turned to previous parades and recreated Wilde’s most beautiful designs.  When Comus, still under Walmsley’s charge,  returned to parade after a seven year hiatus in 1924 they recreated the designs from her 1909 Flights of Fancy.  The original parade had been hit by a wild thunderstorm and had been viewed by only a handful of people.  Comus paid her a final tribute with that parade twelve years after her death.

But let’s turn our thoughts to more pleasurable pursuits and go to our familiar balcony on Canal Street near St Charles.  It is a clear but cool evening and the first of the flambeaux carriers is coming into sight.  The mysterious Captain (though we few in the know realize that it is Walmsley) has blown his whistle and the parade is rolling our way.

As always Comus leads the tableaux* extending his cup of good cheer and pleasure to all and sundry.  It is a salute to both us and the pleasures of Mardi Gras.

The Banner float tells us that we will be witnessing Tales from Chaucer (though unfortunately the designs for Float #4 The Man of Law’s Tale and Float #8 Sir Thopas are missing from the incredible collection at Tullane University).  Now I must admit that my knowledge of the grand-daddy of English authors is pretty much restricted to his Canterbury Tales and just the Prologue at that.  But he was widely known for his translations and poetry beyond that seminal work of Middle English literature.  There is some controversy as to whither the fragments of The Romance of the Rose (Float #3) are rightly attributed to him but Wilde treats the subject like they should be.  The Book of the Duchess (Float #7) is said to be written in memory of Blanche of Lancaster at the request of her husband John of Gaunt.  The other floats in this section are amongst those tales told on the road to Canterbury by the Shipman (#5), the Prioress (#6), and the Monk (#9).

Many of the floats derive from the Canterbury Tales  but in some cases Jennie Wilde identified them by the tale rather than the teller.  In this segment the Frankeleyn or  common land owner (#10), the gap-toothed Wife of Bath (#11) , a Squire (#13) and the Nun’s Priest (Chanticleer #14) tell their Tales  and Chaucer musings poetical on fame (The House of Fame #12).

The Clerke then tells the tale of Griselda (#15), Chaucer himself relates the rambling story of Melibee (#16) and in his Book of Good Women the legend of Pyramus and Tisbe (#17), the Second Nun recounts the legend of St Cecilia* (#18) and Anelida (#18) one of Chaucer’s short poems is the penultimate float.

The final float celebrates one of Chaucer’s minor works:  Trouthe  – Ballade de bon conseyl (To Sir Philip de la Vache).  Each of the three stanzas and the Envoy of this short homiletic poem ends with the refrain:  And Trouthe shal delivere, it is no drede (And Truth shall delivery you, have no fear.)  As the parade draws to a close Jennie Wilde’s float paints a magnificent picture of the virtue of Truth.  And it is a stunning swan song for one of the legends of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Truth - 20
Truth – “And trouthe shal delivere, it is no drede”: Jennie Wilde’s final design for the Krewe of Comus

From our vantage point just as the parade turns on to Canal Street from St Charles we can see the grandstand in front of the Pickwick Club just a few blocks away.  Miss Mary Orme, who has been chosen Queen of Comus, and her four maids are awaiting Comus and his court to escort them to the ball.  All five ladies are daughters of prominent New Orleans families and are wearing evening gowns that indicate their fathers’ fortunes and the talents of their mothers’ French dress makers.  Miss Orme status as Queen of Comus is indicated by a crown, mantle, collar and jewellery that Jennie Wilde has created; while her maids wear short capes.

After Comus has saluted his Lady, he and his court will parade on foot through the French Quarter  The ladies will follow them in bedecked carriages into the heart of the French Quarter to Bourbon and Toulouse, and enter the French Opera House to begin the Comus Bal Masque. Fortunately we have our much prized invitation and a dance card so we can follow them and join in the dancing at the last grand event of Mardi Gras 1914.


Later in the evening the Meeting of the Courts, a custom that goes back to 1892, will take place.  Rex, his Queen and Court will arrive at the Opera House to pay their traditional respects to the the Court of Comus; greetings will be exchanged, presentations made, and the royal couples will promenade around the hall.  Soon the courts will depart and the Captain of Comus will bow to the assemblage and draw the curtain to announce that Mardi Gras for 1914 has ended.


*This series of Mardi Gras postings is dedicated to my own bright Cecilia who has the good fortune to live in the Crescent City and witness this year’s festivities at first hand.

As noted in previous weeks many of the images in the posts I am creating are from the exceptional Mardi Gras collection at Howard Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University and Louisiana Digital Library.   And a wealth of material on the history of Mardi Gras and its creators is available on the Internet as well as in the beautiful series of Mardi Gras Treasures books by Henri Schindler.

On this day in 1913: The 13th Dalai Lama proclaims Tibetan independence following a period of domination by Manchu Qing dynasty and initiated a period of almost four decades of independence.

I Love a Parade – III

February 13, 1899 – New Orleans

For more than 15 years Charles Briton had been largely responsible for many of the costumes, floats and trappings for Mardi Gras. However during his illness in 1884 he turned to fellow Swede Bror Anders Wikstrom for assistance. After a colourful life on the high seas, Wikstrom turned to art and on a visit to New Orleans in 1883 ran into his old friend Briton. On Briton’s death he became the designer of choice for the Comus, Momus and Rex Krewes. Though primarily an artist and teacher Wikstrom’s designs for carnival augmented his income generously and allowed him to live very comfortably and make frequent trips to Europe.

Mangrove Swamp Wikstrom 1902
Mangrove Swamp – 1902
Brors Anders Wikstrom was inspired by his time at sea and his surroundings in Louisiana.

Over the years he tackled a great variety of themes from the comic to the fantastical to the historical.  It was not until 1898 that he was to return to the Krewe of Proteus when he replaced the mysterious Carlotta Bonnecaze.  His first parade was A Trip to Wonderland which wasn’t about Alice’s adventures but rather took the watchers to the Milky Way, a Lovers’ Hammock,  A New Heaven and many other wonderous places.  He was to design twelve more parades for Proteus until his death in 1909.  As was normal he had submitted his designs for the 1910 Rex parade as Ash Wednesday 1909 was arriving.  He then headed off to New York to work on the design for forty floats to celebrate the anniversary of Henry Hudson’s “discovery” of the river that was named after him.  He had been unwell on his departure and his condition worsened.  He died in April, several days after he had completed the project.  His obituary lauded his accomplishments in setting up art schools and academies in his adopted home but made no mention of his work with the Mystic Krewes.  As with previous designers, including Briton and Bonnecaze, his identify was one of the secrets guarded by the Krewes.

The Aids were parade marshals who rode the length of the route on horseback.  For E Pluribus Unum in 1899 Wikstrom gave them the air of French cavaliers.

Though much ado is made of them, the persons chosen to represent Rex, Comus, Momus or Proteus had little to do other than preside over the festivities.  The real work of planning, coordinating, and overseeing went to the Captains of the Krewes and their Aids.  The Captain was the manager of the festivities and for many it was a year round job.  Themes were chosen; designs viewed, changed, rejected or approved; trips made to the costume houses of France drawings and measurement sheets in hand; fabrics and adornments selected; shipments arranged; float and big-head constructions overseen; invitations lists for the ball vetted; ball favours, dance cards and invitations; and the list goes on.  Until on the day of the Parade itself the masked – and unknown – Captain, mounted on horseback, led the parade through the streets of city.  And with him as parade marshals were five or six Aids who had assisted him throughout the year and now kept the parade in good running order.

After all the planning and preparation a smooth operation on the day itself was not always guaranteed.  In 1877 it was discovered that the floats that had been constructed for the infamous Hades, A Dream of Momus were too wide to go through doors of the “den” where they had been constructed.  The parade was delayed as a wall was knocked down.  In 1890 a battle broke out between the Captains of Comus and Proteus.  Comus had not paraded on Mardi Gras night for several years and Proteus had taken over their spot.  Comus returned that year and the two parades took off at the same time only to collide on Canal Street.  Heated words were exchanged and blows almost flew however the brother-in-law of the Comus Captain took the bridle of the Captain of Proteus’s horse and led him to one side allowing Comus to go through.  It was only after some persuading that Proteus returned to his original Lundi Gras place in the festivities.

Despite the weather the Rex Parade of 1899 made it’s way through the winter swept streets of New Orleans.  I’m sure Wikstrom had not envisioned his King of Carnival sitting on a snowy bed of roses!

But the biggest concern for any Captain was the weather.  Rain was always a major threat to the papier-maché floats and big heads.  But rain was not the problem during Mardi Gras week in 1899.  A blizzard swept out of the Rockies and deposited three inches of snow on an unprepared New Orleans.  A bitterly cold wind drove the temperatures to 28ºf during the day; though Rex did parade, atop a Wikstrom designed bed of roses, on Shrove Tuesday it was said His Majesty’s smile was more set by a frozen moustache than from any sense of bonhomie.

Rex may have decided to parade the evening before, when temperatures went to 7ºf, Proteus made the wise decision to stay indoors and delay the parade until two days later – Friday February 16th.  For the only time in Mardi Gras history a parade was held in the first days of Lent.  It was not a success as both carnival spirit and crowds had dispersed with the coming of Ash Wednesday.  And if truth be told Wikstrom’s designs – his second for Proteus – lacked the enchantment or whimsy of his best work.

So here it is February 16th and we’re back to our familiar spot on Canal Street – the weather is still not warm and frankly there’s a certain joie de vivre missing.  But let’s give the parade a passing glance and see what Mr Wikstrom has created.  Frankly it may be just a little to cold to watch the whole thing so we may just go indoors for a warming glass of hot punch and miss a few of the floats.

As always the parade was lead off by the Captain on horseback followed by Proteus accompanied by members of his court. (A left click will enlarge the designs for a closer look.)

In the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898 patriotism was running high in the United States and Proteus choose to celebrate America with E Pluribus Unum, one of the mottoes on the Great Seal.   Though never codified by law it was the de facto motto of the U. S. until the change to a less secular wording in 1956.


Uncle Sam counting the stars was followed by floats representing the District of Columbia, seventeen states* (the Carolines shared a float) and Alaska which wasn’t even a territory at that time.  I have not been able to figure out what the exact criteria was for inclusion or the order in which the states were presented.  Each state was represented by its motto, shield and attributes of its history, industry, flora or fauna.

It is possible that the first state is Maine as a tribute to the sunken USS Maine that had served as a powerful propaganda tool in the Spanish-American War.  The ship had been in port during Mardi Gras 1897 and her officers and crew taken part in the festivities.  I’m a little at a loss to explain the rather Nordic dress of the participants as the Viking settlement theories were not put forth until the 1970s.

There is perhaps a bit of irony to the modern observer in both the State motto and the design of the float representing Pennsylvania. The wheat sheaves and the lumps of coal with the state moto: Both Can’t Survive.  Of course we have been told otherwise.

Though there may be witty asides at the expense of many of the States that are lost on us today there is no question about Massachusetts.  The Mayflower seems bound on a storm sea for a rather forbidding Plymouth Rock.  And the float is peopled by blue stockinged archetypal schoolmarms, academics, and slightly over-the-hill cupids.  Obviously Wikstrom did not hold the good citizens of Boston in the highest esteem.

Given the recent Gold Rush in the Klondike that had beckoned to more than one hopeful prospector from the South perhaps it was not so strange to include Alaska as One of the Many.

We really didn’t need a reminder of the cold from that last float – there’s still some snow on the ground.  We’ll have to be careful going over to the French Opera House, it’s a bit slippery underfoot – those cobble stones can be treacherous.  It does seem a bit anti-climactic going to a ball during Lent but we have the invitation and the dance card and it would be a shame to waste them.  Beside we spent a goodly amount on those costumes so ………

* The floats in order were: District of Columbia, Maine, Alabama, The Carolinas, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Florida, Louisiana, Rhode Island, California, Texas, and Alaska

On this day in 1951: The Canadian Army enters combat in the Korean War.

I Love A Parade – II

February 16, 1896 – New Orleans

Looking at many of the designs it is difficult to believe that New Orleans Mardi Gras Parades were exclusive to men during much of the Golden Age.  The Krewes were secretive “men only” organizations such that even the fair Dido in Briton’s The Aeneid would have been a mustachioed if not bearded gentleman.  In 1880 the Krew of Momus took as their theme A Dream of Fair Women which led one society columnist to record her inability to suspend disbelieve.  Catherine Cole wryly noted:  … I confess my imagination was not vivid enough to fancy ‘fair women’ in the lot of gorgeously apparelled brawny men who hid their beards and moustaches behind false faces. Adieu! It was a perfect nightmare!  

Though women were working behind the scenes from the beginning it was not until 1922 that the all-female Krewe of Iris held a tableaux ball.  However they didn’t parade until 1959.  That honour fell to the Krewe of Venus who held the first all-female parade in 1941.  Their theme was Goddesses and the display was worthy of the subject and the importance of the event.

The Krewe of Venus threw doubloons honour various notable women. This is from 1962 – History’s Sovereign Queens

But it wasn’t all glitter and gorgeous throws. To begin with it rained; then they were subject to taunts and catcalls from crowds along the way. But even worse they became the targets for organized gangs that threw rotten vegetables and eggs. Despite the chauvinistic naysayers the Krewe continued to parade every year until they disbanded in 1992. They were the torchbearers for the many female Krewes and marchers that were to follow.

But I digress: from 1885 to 1896 the spectacular floats of the Krewe of Proteus may have been manned (sorry) by gorgeously costumed men however those floats and frocks were created by a woman:  Carlotta Bonnecaze.

Carlotta Bonnecaze, the first woman to design for a Mardi Gras Krewe, captured the Myths and Worships of China in 1885.

Little is known about Carlotta Bonnecaze except that she was a Creole and the first woman to designed a parade and tableaux ball.  There is an indication that she was the daughter of an Alexander Bonnecaze who was a member of Proteus.  Her only known designs were for that Krewe and because of the secrecy surrounding designers her work went unrecognized until 1922 when a gift to the Louisiana State Museum of preliminary sketches brought her name to light.  They revealed the meticulous detail that went into the work in the fanciful designs she created.

Here’s the finished design for The Festival of Lanterns float from her first parade in 1885: Myths and Worships of China. Roll the mouse over the finished design to see her first thoughts.

Over the thirteen years Bonnecaze designed for Proteus she looked to the gods and legends of China, India, Scandinavia, Persia, Arabia, and Europe of the Middle Ages for her themes.  The Stars were her inspiration for Visions of Other Words which was deemed one of her finest displays.  But she was also capable of a touch of whimsy dressing Krewe members as peas, corn, and other vegetables and surrounding them with sixteen feet high flora and fauna in A Dream of the Vegetable Kingdom in 1892.  But it was in 1896 that she combined the whimsical and her flair for the eccentric in Dumb Society.  She may have lacked the stiletto satire of Briton but for all their charm her anthropomorphic comments on social mores of the time had a certain bite.

So once again this we take our places on that balcony overlooking the broad avenue that is Canal Street and watch the passing parade. (A right click will enlarge each picture for a closer look.)

The numbering of the floats on Carlotta Bennecaze’s design does not include the banner float – a proud American Eagle bearing the legend of the theme; I’ll use the larger number when remarking on a particular float.

Number 4 is a rather pointed trial scene: the fox would seem to be the outsider in a courtroom filled with birds listening to the Mother Hen pleading her case.  And it would appear that Justice overlooking the proceedings is either a donkey (the Democrats?) or just an ass!

Rather amusingly the oblivious mice cavort under the “guardian” gaze of two very attentive cats – lunchtime on Float 8?  And that avian “glee club” that follows on Float 9  includes an endearing little chick cradled in an egg.

Washington is still a source of amusement – President Grover Cleveland’s passion for fishing is guyed – howbeit gently in Presidential Sporting (#!)) .  And Float 13 takes a poke at ladies of fashion peacocking it around town, ignoring the fact that there is nothing plainer than a peahen.  And what could be more elegant than an elephant taking afternoon tea (#14) served by a donkey in full livery?

My definite favourite is #15 the “Last Rites”: Cock Robin, his breast pierced by that infamous arrow, is laid to rest by an officiating sparrow as a bull (?) tolls the death knell on a nearby bluebell.

Bonnecaze designed 110 costumes and masks for the spectacle.  Everything from an alligator in a tail coat to that brace of very fashionable peacocks to a weevil in an equally fashionable hobble-skirt.  Though by 1873 the floats and paper-maché  heads  were being made in New Orleans many of the costumes were still being made overseas.  Designs and measurements would be sent to well-known costume houses in France and on more than one occasion there were concerns about delivery as Mardi Gras drew near.


Carlotta Bonnecaze was to design only one more Mardi Gras for the Krewe of Proteus.  On March 1 1897 her vision of Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso processed down Canal Street.  As the flambeaux illuminating Orlando’s final combat faded from sight her name disappeared from Mardi Gras history until the serendipitous discover in 1922.  Carlotta Bonnecaze regained her rightful place amongst the creators of the Golden Age.


As noted last week many of the images in the posts I am creating are from the exceptional Mardi Gras collection at Howard Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University and Louisiana Digital Library.   And much of the nuggets of Mardi Gras came from two of the Mardi Gras Treasures books by the doyen of Mardi Gras designers Henri Schindler.


On this day in 1969: The Beatles‘ last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The impromptu concert is broken up by the police.

Mercoledi Musicale

I wasn’t sure what category this post was going to fit into.  It’s music but today is Thursday (though I suppose it could be Mardi Musicale for alliteration); it’s Robbie Burns Day which to some is a Feast and Festival; and for some reason I thought I had posted this video previously so there was a chance it was a Throwback Thursday.  Well a search indicates that the video that I made back in April of 2015 was never posted so it can’t be a Throwback.  Since Laurent will be consuming a dram of scotch (no rubbish Dr. Spo)  in honour of the poet tonight it qualifies as a Festival. And again it definitely is musicale of the highest order.

In previous posts I have mentioned the efforts of George Thomson to published folk songs from the British Isles in a form that would be appropriate for “respectable” drawings rooms of the early 1800s.  He had collected melodies and lyrics from Scottish, Irish and Welsh sources including some 25 that he had received from Robbie Burns. He ordered adaptions – mostly for the popular combination of piano, violin and violincello – from  Joseph Haydn, Leopold Kozeluch, Ignaz Pleyel and Beethoven. All in all 150 song adaptations by Beethoven of Irish, Welsh and Scottish songs have been preserved.

Beethoven’s settings of Scottish Folk Songs was published in Berlin in 1822 with lyrics translated into German.

In 1818 Thomson published Beethoven’s op 108 Scottish Songs (Schottische Lieder) which contained twenty-five melodies that the composer had adapted – remarking that this was a less pleasant work for an artist but surely a good work for business.  He was to arrange 175 pieces for Thomson based on folk melodies that had been collected from various sources throughout Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  One hundred and fifty of them were published in various anthologies – twenty-five were left unpublished.  Amongst the 1818 songs was Faithfu’ Johnnie with lyrics attributed to “Mrs. Grant”, and it is presumed that is Anne Grant of Laggan* who both collected from and wrote poetry inspired by the Highlands.  The melody is of an unknown origin and in several music books is simply listed as “old Scottish melody”.

Here is that “old Scottish melody” with lyrics by Mrs Grant in an arrangement by Ludwig von Beethoven sung by the great Janet Baker accompanied by Yehudi Menuhin (violin), George Malcolm (piano), and Ross Pople (cello).  Not a bad pedigree for a folksong!

When will you come again, my faithful Johnny
When will you come again, my faithful Johnny
When the corn is gathered, when the leaves are withered
I will come again, my sweet and bonnie, I will come again

Then winter winds will blow, my faithful Johnny
Then winter winds will blow, my faithful Johnny
Though the day be dark with drift that I cannot see the lift§
I will come again, my sweet and bonnie, I will come again

Then will you meet me here, my faithful Johnny
Then will you meet me here, my faithful Johnny
Though the night be Hallowe’en when the fearful sights are seen
I will come again, my sweet and bonnie, I will come again

§ An old dialect word meaning “sky”.

So to all my friends who are celebrating Burns Night and to all of you who aren’t but wish you were and just to all of you I wish:

Sláinte Mhath! – Good Health!

*Anne Grant is a fascinating woman and her short biography on Wikipedia is worth the click.

On this day in 1858: The Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn is played at the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Victoria, and Friedrich of Prussia, and becomes a popular wedding processional.