Sunday, February 18, 2007

On Diableries

Several years ago, a good friend gave me a book called Diablieries: La Vie Quotidenne Chez Satan a la fin du 19e Siecle. It was published by in France by Ballard in 1978 and edited by Jac Remise.

It is one of my most prized books. The images within depicting the daily life of Satan are endlessly fascinating. Every page is printed on dark glossy paper with richly textured black and white images of skeletons, demons and Satan occupying their eternal time by fishing and flirting with women, cooking up infernal cuisines, drinking, gambling and generally carrying on in delighful and humorous fashions.

From what I can gather, they were originally created in the 19th century as small tabletop dioramas by, perhaps, three enigmatic sculptors. (There is some speculation that because of the heretical nature of the sculptures and their subversive commentary on French society of the time, that the creators had no desire to be well-known.) With the advent of photography, images were made of the sculptures - as stereo-photographs and rear-projection tissues. The original sculptures appear to have been destroyed.

I have posted a few detail scans that I made. Check out the sites below for a much more comprehensive catalog of Diablieries.


The history of these amazing tissue views is gradually coming to light following many years of almost complete ignorance as to their creators, purpose (if any!) and methods of production. Stereo World volume 30 #4 contains a good article on the classification of Diableries by Bob Schreiber - much of the research carried out in collaboration with the late Tex Treadwell.

It is now generally believed that these views were produced as social satire on the regime of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte who, as Napoleon III, was Emperor of France from 1852 to 1870. More overt lampooning of him and his government was liable to lead to a long period of imprisonment!

There are a myriad of small, almost hidden, messages within these views and work is currently in progress to reveal more information. They can, so far, be attributed to Hennetier and Habert. They were created on table-tops with small clay models that were used again and again in different poses. An idea of scale can be had from a careless view where the table legs are visible, and one view which features a real stuffed blackbird.

From Diableries: Early Visual Media:

The most popular Diableries are the "tissue" versions since they are made to view with transmitted light from behind, revealing the most wonderfull coulors and light effect similar as seen in a Vue d'Optique viewed by back-light in a peepshow box. Many non-transparent versions are found also and both are equally interesting for the serious collector!

Because of their rarity, most Diableries will be illustrated here as single images. Where possible, I will add, both, links to stereo versions & color images.

To my knowledge, only one book is devoted interely on these fascinating views, written by Jac Remise, the same author of the well known "Magie Lumineuse" illustrating the Pre-cinema.

This book mention 72 different Diableries as one complete set. Perhaps this is true, Although I feel that some of the views do not all belong to one single set. Several other views mentioned in the 139 title list could be part of the majority of views depicted in Jac Remise's wonderfull publication.

Most of the Stereo Diableries are anonymous, although 25 images depicted in the book have a signature in the plaster. The same names are occasionally also found on the diableries in the extented diablerie list wich proves their connection.

Three different names are found in the plaster of the "72" series. Hennetier (14), Habert (10), Cougny (1). I supose these names where not the creators of the Diablerie series but the sculptors who made the mouldings on demand. Cougny turns up only one time. Hennetier is mostly seen in this set and also in the other Diableries, subsequent to the number 72.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where I can find a copy of this book? thank you,

Anonymous said...

would you be intrestead in viewing 25 tissue versions?