1892 Krewe of Proteus designs

LaRC’s annual Carnival exhibit is now on display in the Special Collections gallery, Jones Hall Room 201.

“Floats, Costumes, and the Vegetable Kingdom: The original designs for the wonderfully odd 1892 Proteus parade.”

Using the theme “A Dream of the Vegetable Kingdom,” in 1892 the Krewe of Proteus created floats and costumes based on corn, watermelon, and even English peas. Intended as working drawings for float builders and costumiers, the designs are also stunningly beautiful works of art.

The designs are by Carlotta Bonnecaze, the first woman and first creole to design floats for a Carnival krewe. Carnival historian Henri Schindler calls her work “astonishing” and argues that in this 1892 parade, she used subtle layers of color to achieve her most beautifully painted designs.

“A Dream of the Vegetable Kingdom” is also a rare instance of LaRC preserving both the complete set of eighteen float designs and the complete set of 101 costume designs for the same parade. Unlike today, each costume depicted a unique character designed specifically for the person who wore it. Sixteen float designs and thirty-eight costume designs are on display.

In addition to being beautiful works of art in their own right, the designs are heavily used by researchers in a variety of fields, including present-day Carnival designers, float builders, business people, historians, sociologists, and litterateurs. LaRC preserves one of the largest Carnival collections in the world, including roughly 5,600 original designs, all of which are available online through the Louisiana Digital Library. With all of the designs having been placed online, we have restricted the delicate originals for preservation purposes, so this is a rare opportunity to see the original works on paper.

Leon Miller

Captions:  details of design artwork for the 1892 Proteus parade, featuring English peas, and strawberries.   Images of items in the Louisiana Research Collection may not be republished without permission.


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