Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Stereoscopic 'Diableries'
of 19th Century France

     Some of you may be aware of my love of things stereoscopic and in particular the set(s) of images that are known as 'Diableries' (the Diabolical).

     These amusing cards which feature Satan and his skeletal cohorts riding bikes, at the concert hall, in the library and  performing many other jolly japes were created over a forty year period in France and were mainly published by Adolph Block. The exact number of images is unknown but it is thought to be around 140. The cards also have a
strong satirical edge, primarily at the expense of the Napoleonic excesses of the day, though some images still elude attempts to decipher them.

     The scenes themselves were made from clay and plaster, the stereoscopic photos of which became the cards. The French had  developed a technique now generally known as 'tissue view' in which each card was printed on thin paper and backed with tissue and coloured varnishes. Sometimes images where also pierced to allow white light through. Viewed from the front the image was in b/w but when  backlit it changed to colour. This was a delicate and expensive process and sets of images were thus luxury items.

     To date, only one (now rare) book exists on them; Jac Remises 'Diableries: La vie Quotidienne Chez Satan',  Balland, 1978). However, the
London Stereoscopic Company   has announced that they are to issue a new book on the subject at some point this year which will include the fruits of the considerable research that has taken place over the last twenty five years.

     Their website has a section devoted to the Diableries including
this link to an amazing page showing 73 of the Diableries in which the viewer can observe (at high resolution) the image in its front and backlit states.

     To get you in the mood here are a few single frames in b/w but do visit that link above to see them in their full colour glory.



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