Alberto Martini (1)


Alberto Martini was born in Oderzo (I) on November 24, 1876. He was a painter, engraver, lithographer, illustrator and graphic designer (ex libris, visiting cards). He trained in drawing and painting under the guidance of his father Giorgio, who copied old masters and who was professor of drawing at the Istituto Technico in Treviso. In 1897, when he was only 21 years, he exhibited  for the first time at the Venice Biennale with the cycle of drawings "La corte dei miracoli", inspired by "Notre-Dame de Paris" by Victor Hugo. During 1898 he stayed in Munich and had the opportunity to work on the magazines Jugend and Dekorative Kunst. He illustrated numerous books and was very productive designing postcard series. During World War 1 he designed 5 series of postcards called: "Danza Macabra Europea". Alberto Martini died in Milan (I), November 8, 1954.
(Source: Art Nouveau Postcards, Giovanni Fanelli & Ezio Godoli. USA 1987)


There are 5 series in the "Danza Macabra Europea" set.  Series I,  II,  III and V each 12 cards and series  IV,  6 cards, numbered 1 through 54. All issued by Litografia Longo - Treviso. We will show you series II,  numbered 13 through 24.  This is one of the most beautiful series we have ever seen !!


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The interpretive text for the individual cards displayed below is by Jerry M. Kosanovich.


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German Kaiser Wilhelm II is portrayed as a turnip head in this card that explains " The turnip that the Prussians wanted to plant in Paris ".  Martini's caricature both highlights the crimes of the Germans as well promising retribution to the Kaiser. On the turnip's leaves are the names of the cities Luvain , Reims and Paris. The Germans gratuitously shelled and then put to the torch Luvain and Reims. There was little compelling military reason in Reims, and not in Luvain. Luvain had,  in fact, been abandoned by the Belgian army. The destruction of these cities,  considered gems of European medieval art and architecture proved to the Allies and the world, that the German claim to be "cultured" was false. 

No. 13

The names of Luvain and Reims came to be synonomous in Allied anti-German propaganda with "barbarism" and lack of civilization. The promise of retribution, by France, is symbolized by the smiling skeletal "Death" who wears the French revolutionary cap and holds up a guillotine.


" The revenge of stepmother Austria "
This horrific cartoon portrays the Austro-Hungarian Empire as murderously blood thirsty. The foul monster crushes a human figure, representing Italy, in its jaws. From the broken body of Italy blood flows and outlines the provinces within the Austro-Hungarian Empire populated with ethnic Italians - Trentino, Istria and Dalmatia. Even as the beast ravages Italy, it disfigures its own body by clawing at its belly representing Galicia - Austro-Hungary's Polish province. Perched atop the beast is a skeletal two-headed bird symbolizing the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

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No. 14

The imperial symbol of the Empire was the double-headed eagle, and this creature's rump is the face of Austrian Emperor (Kaiser) Franz Josef - taken in total to symbolize the corrupt and evil nature of the Empire and its leadership.


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" You became a goose, and you an old monkey "
This card takes aim at both the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires. Austria's Emperor Franz Josef, with the lower body of a monkey, sits upon a throne of skulls. Preening before him is a diminutive skeleton representing German Kaiser Wilhelm II. He rides a two-headed goose, mocking the two-headed eagle which is the Austro-Hungarian imperial symbol. Important to the message in this caricature is the structure of the throne upon which Franz Josef sits - the hangman's gibbet. Note that on the cross bar is written the word "Oberdan". This is a reference to Guglielmo Oberdan (1858-1882). Oberdan was a idealistic young student.

No. 15

A student, who like many of his countrymen harbored a deep hatred and distrust of Austria because of that empire's continued control of the regions of Trieste and Trento, which were heavily populated by ethnic Italians and the object of Italian irredentist ambition. In 1882 passions were running high as the Italian government was then contemplating an alliance with Austria-Hungary and Germany. On the occasion of a much publicized visit of Emperor Franz Josef to Trieste in October 1882, Oberdan, equipped with explosives, set out to assassinate the emperor. Stopped at the border, the explosives were discovered and Oberdan was arrested, tried and quickly convicted. Great efforts were made to save him, and petitions asking for clemency were signed by thousands of women. Victor Hugo, the famous French author, appealed personally to the Emperor. However, Austria's long reign over its ethnically diverse empire had not been established on clemency, and Oberdan was promptly hanged. The legend, developed in Italy, is that he was convicted on manufactured evidence, and that the bombs attributed to him were placed in his baggage by Austrian agents. He became immediately a popular hero, and entered into the irredentist folklore. (See also the execution of Cesare Battisti


" The last rescue - vessel "
Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef is portrayed as up to his neck in a lake of blood.
He is held afloat by holding onto a coffin atop which is skeletal Death, poling across the lake.
Above Russia advances upon Galicia, the Polish province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Below it shows the imperial capital of Vienna being threatened with inundation by the lake of blood.

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No. 16


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" Empire of Death"
Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef is portrayed as a mutton chop demon. In his eye socket to the left is the Serbian Gavrilo Prinzip who assassinated Austro-Hungarian imperial Heir Apparent Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. This was the spark that ignited the World War. A skeleton Franz Ferdinand is in the right eye socket of the Emperor. Hanging from Franz Josef's elongated demon ears are victims of Austro-Hungarian atrocity in the Tyrol and Balkans following the assassination.

No. 17

(The left ear reads Trento and Trieste, Austrian provinces populated by ethnic Italians and the right ear reads Serbia - which Austria-Hungary attacked and upon whose civilian population they performed slaughter.)
At center below is a sword-skewered two-headed bird symbolizing that the demon Franz Josef will be the death of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, of which the two-headed eagle was the national symbol.


" The macabre/comical dream of Wilhelm II "
This cartoon attacks German Emperor Wilhelm II as a demon attempting to control the fate of nations. Portrayed as a skeleton with only a heart, Wilhelm wields the Austro-Hungarian Empire as a tool - represented by a staff upon which is mounted  the head of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef. Wilhelm's cynical use of religion is symbolized by the Roman Catholic Pope bound together with the Turkish Sultan, nominally the head od the world's muslims. They are held together over the fire. Wilhelm the demon stands atop the backs of five men who are up to their chests in blood.

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No. 18

These five men apparently are the leaders of the principal allied nations: (L - R) King George of Britain, King Albert of Belgium(?), Czar Nicholas of Russia, King Victor Emanuel of Italy and President Poincaré of France (in red cap). To the sides we see cataloged some of the cities in which civilians were bombed by Germany - Venezia, London and Paris.




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