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THE SPHINX IT: MOSES LEADING HIS PEOPLE OUT OF EGYPT
prey, whereupon the placid ducks and is more exact and less limiting than the geese again swim over, and the curtain English “shadow-pantomime." It is perfalls.
haps a pity that the old-fashioned term There are
score of other little plays "gallanty-show" has not won a wider aclike “The Broken Bridge” adroitly ad- ceptance in English. justed to the caliber of the juvenile mind. The little pieces due to Séraphin and In an English collection may be found a his humble followers in France and Engpiece representing a succession of appalling land, devised to amuse children only, were episodes supposed to take place in a simple enough in plot, and yet they were haunted house; and in a French manual sufficient to suggest to admirers of this for the use of youthful amateurs may be unpretending form of theatrical art plays discovered a rudimentary version of Moli- of a more imposing proportion. M. Paul ère's "Imaginary Invalid” to be performed Eudel, the art critic, has published an amby silhouettes with articulated limbs. ply illustrated volume in which he colHere again we perceive the inaccuracy lected the fairy pieces and the more specof the term "shadow-pantomime," since tacular melodramas composed by his most of the figures are not articulated, grandfather in the first quarter of the and, being motionless, are deprived of the nineteenth century, in the dark days that freedom of gesture which is the essen- preceded Waterloo. And in the third tial element of true pantomime. More- quarter of the nineteenth century, in the over, they are all made to take part in dark days that preceded Sédan, M. Levarious dialogues, and this again is a nega- mercier de Neuville, relinquishing for a tion of the fundamental principle of pan- while the Punch-and-Judy puppets which tomime, which ought to be wordless. he called pupazzi and which he had exHere the French term “Chinese shadows" hibited in a succession of gentle caricatures
of Parisian personalities with a mildly fects, and of more numerous characters. Aristophanic flavor of contemporary sa- He introduced a company of Spanish dantire, turned to the familiar Chinese shad- cers, for example; and he did not hesitate ows of his childhood and devised what he to throw on his screen the sable and sercalled his pupazzi noirs, animated shad- rated profile of a long line of ballet-danOws. He has issued also a coilection of He followed Eudel in arranging a these little pieces with a full explanation procession of animals, rivaling a circusof the method of performance, and with parade, many of them being articulated so half a hundred illustrations, revealing all that they could make the appropriate the secrets of maneuvering the little fig- movements of their jaws and their paws. ures. Indeed, Lemercier de Neuville's And he paid special attention to his silmanual is the most ample which has yet houette caricatures of contemporary celebappeared; and it is the most interesting in rities, Zola for one and Sarah Bernhardt that he was at once his own playwright, for another. his own designer of figures, and his own Then the Franco-Russian draftsman performer.
who called himself Caran d'Ache made As the grandfather of M. Eudel had a new departure, and started the art of been more ambitious than Séraphin, so the shadow-pantomime in a new career. Lemercier de Neuville was more ambi- He called his figures "French shadows," tious than the elder Eudel. And yet his ombres françaises, and he suriendei ed the procedure was precisely that of his prede- privilege of articulating his figures so that cessors, and he did not in any way modify they could move. At least he refrained the principles of the art. All he did was from this except on rare occasions, preferto elaborate the performance by the use ring the effect of immobility, and relying of more scenery, of more spectacular ef- mainly upon a new principle not before
employed by any of his predecessors. He the horses retaining always the same posimade a specialty of long lines and of large tion. This absence of animal movement masses of troops, not all on the same plane, was, of course, a variation from the facts but presented in perspective. He chose
He chose of life, like that which permits the painter also to forego the aid of speech, and his to depict a breaking wave or a sculptor to figures were silent except when some offi- model a running boy at a single moment cer called out a word of command, or of the movement. Yet this artistic conwhen a company of Cossacks rode past vention was immediately acceptable, since singing one of the wailing lyrics of the the spectator received a simplified impresCaucasus, as melancholy as the steppes. sion, and his attention was not distracted
One of the most attractive items on his by the inevitable jerkiness of the limbs of program was a representation of the re- the men and beasts. turn of vehicles and equestrians from the Caran d'Ache's masterpiece, however, Bois de Boulogne in the afternoon. Some and it may honestly be styled a 'masterof the figures were merely characteristic piece, was not "The Return from the Bois types sharply seized and outlined with all de Boulogne," but his “Epopée,” his epic the artist's masterly draftsmanship, and evocation of the grand army of Napoleon. some of them were well-known personages Single figures, like the Little Corporal easily recognizable by his Parisian spec- on horseback and lurat and others of tators: De Lesseps on horseback, for ex- the emperor's staff, he projected with a ample, and Rochefort in an open cab. fidelity and a veracity of accent worthy of These successive figures were simply Detaille or even Vleissonier. Yet fine as pushed across the screen one after another, these single figures might be, they were each of them as motionless as a statue, the only what had been attempted by earlier men fixed in one attitude, and the legs of exponents of the art, even if they were
A HUNGARIAN DANCER (FIG. I)
FROM A SHADOW PICTURE BY
LEMERCIER DE NEUVILLE
A HUNGARIAN DANCER (FIG. 2) more impressive than had been achieved by
This explains the mechanism of the shadow picture any one of his predecessors. These single
shown in Fig. 1. figures were necessarily presented all on the same plane, and the startling and successful innovation of the Franco-Russian draftsmanship was his skilful use of per- nite. And by the automatic movement spective, a device which had not occurred which sets all his troops in action at once, to any of those in whose footsteps he was he gives us the illusion of a single soul, of following. Even Lemercier de Neuville a communal thought animating innumerahad presented his ballet-dancers in a flat ble bodies, and thereby he evokes in us the row.
What Caran d'Ache did was to impression of measureless power. ... bring before us company after company of His silent poem, with its sliding profiles, the Old Guard, and troop after troop of is, I think, the only epic in all French litcuirassiers, the profiles diminishing in erature." And those who are familiar height as the figures receded from the eye. with the other French efforts to attain to He attained to an effect of solidity and lyric largeness, and who have had also the even of immensity far beyond anything unforgetable felicity of beholding Caran ever before achieved by any earlier exhib- d'Ache's marvelous projection of the Naitor of shadows. He succeeded in sug- poleonic legend, will be prepared to admit gesting space and of maneuvering before that M. Lemaître has not overstated the the astonished eyes of the entranced spectator a vast mass of men under arms, What the Franco-Russian artist had marching forward resolutely in serried done was to reveal the alluring possibiliranks to victory or to death.
ties placed at the command of the shadowM. Jules Lemaître, the most open- pantomimist by the ingenious employment minded of French dramatic critics, and of perspective; and there remained only the most hospitable in his attitude toward one more step to be taken for the final dethe minor manifestations of theatric art, velopment of the art to its ultimate cahas recorded that this Napoleonic epic of pacity. This was the addition of color, Caran d'Ache communicated to him not and this step was taken by an associate of only an emotion of actual grandeur, but Caran d'Ache in the exhibitions given at also the thrill of war itself. He declared the Chat Noir - M. Henri Rivière. Color that “by the exactness of the perspective could be added in two ways. In the first preserved in his long files of soldiers, place, the outlines of lanterns and of batCaran d'Ache gives us the illusion of num- tle-flags could be cut out, and slips of apber and of a number immense and indefi- propriately tinted paper could be inserted
in the openings, so that the light might dering Jew," another was “The Prodigal shine through. This relieved the monot- Son," and a third was “The Temptation ony of the uniformity of the sable figures, of Saint Anthony,” all legends of comand added a note of amusing gaiety. But bined dramatic and pictorial appeal. Yet this was
an innovation of very limited the most effective of all the experiments in scope, and it could have been earlier util- this new form was due not to M. Rivière ized in the Aat figures of Lemercier de himself, but to the collaboration of two of Neuville, for example, if he had happened his disciples, M. Fragerolle and M. Vigto think of it. Far wider in its artistic nola. This was the “Sphinx," in which possibilities was the second of M. Rivière's the artists most adroitly combined all the improvements. For the ordinary lamp advantages of the original flat profiles, and which cast a steady glow on the white the long files of figures in perspective such screen whereon the profile figures appeared as Caran d'Ache had employed, with he substituted a magic lantern, the painted varied backgrounds due to the aid of the slides of which enabled him to supply an magic lantern first utilized by M. Rivière. appropriately colored background. Then Of all human monuments no one has had he went further, and employed two magic so marvelous a series of spectacles pass belanterns, superimposed, and these enabled fore its sightless eyes as the Sphinx, reclinhim to get the effect of "dissolving views" ing impassive at the edge of the desert at whereby he could vary his background at the foot of the pyramids. Race after race will. The immediate result of this in- has descended into the valley of the Nile genious improvement was that the artist and lingered for a little space, a few cencould at will bestow upon his shadow-pan- turies more or less, and departed at last. tomime not a little of the richness of color Conqueror after conqueror has come and which delights our eyes in the stained glass gone again; and the Sphinx has kept its of the medieval cathedrals.
inscrutable smile. M. Rivière was not only an inventor, M. Fragerolle composed the music and but he was also an artist gifted with im- the words of the stately chant which acagination, and his imagination suggested companied the exhibition of the figures to him at once the three or four themes passing before the backgrounds, due to the best fitted for treatment by his novel ap- pencil and the palette of M. Vignola. By paratus. One of these was “The Wan- the aid of the magic lantern, the gigantic