The Krewe of Proteus began in response to the growing popularity of parade organizations and float riding. Several Comus members and other carnival supporters came together, forming the Krewe of Proteus in 1881, and presenting the first parade in 1882.The Greek, shape-shifting sea god, Proteus, was chosen as the symbol for the new Krewe. Proteus was the first parade organization to have Creole membership and a Creole captain. Proteus has reliably paraded over the years, with the only exceptions being a few weather interruptions, World War I and II, and the 1992 to 2000 parading hiatus disrupting the parade schedules.
Proteus made his 1882 parade debut with the theme of “Ancient Egyptian Mythology,” which was designed by famed carnival artist Charles Briton and was considered one of the most impressive parades of its time. The parade featured Egyptian gods, architecture, and mythological scenes. Briton designed for Proteus until his death in 1884 and was replaced by the artist, Carlotta Bonnecaze.
Very little is known about Bonnecaze except that she designed exclusively for the Krewe of Proteus. In 1885, Bonnecaze’s first parade debuted as “Myths and Worships of the Chinese,” which showcased beautiful float depictions of Chinese traditions and beliefs. The following year, she designed the parade under the theme “Visions of Other Worlds,” which illustrated fantastical and imaginative interpretations of the universe. Bonnecaze created wonderful float and costume designs for Proteus until 1896.
The Swedish artist, Bror Anders Wikstrom, designed float and costume plates for Proteus from 1887 to 1909 and is one of the most prolific carnival designers. Many of his themes come from Eastern traditions and stories. In 1905, he based his designs on the Persian epic poem “The Rubyiat.” The theme in 1907 was the “Queen of Serpents” from The Arabian Nights. Both years showcase elaborate and detailed scenes from each story.
Selected images from each of the parades mentioned are available for viewing in Jones Hall, Room 205. The exhibit will be on display through May, from Monday to Friday, 9-5, and Saturday mornings, 9-1. If you have any questions or comments, please contact LaRC staff by calling 504-865-5685, by emailing email@example.com, or by visiting us at Jones Hall 202 Tulane University, 6801 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70118.
Posted by Kathryn Rumer
Proteus images, Manuscripts Collection 900 (Carnival Collection), Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University. Images may not be reproduced without permission.
Editor's note: Kathryn Rumer is an MLIS student at Louisiana State University, and LaRC's Pie Dufour Carnival intern. -E. Tansey