The Prints Of Darkness

Prints of Darkness Header Image

Before TV and radio, the main way of reaching the public was with large, eye-catching posters with theatres, silent film and opera advertising with colourful images fixed to walls or fences. Unfortunately most of these images have been lost or destroyed, but Los Angeles art gallery Century Guild has a selection of prints of darkness from the world of the peculiar and macabre from Germany, Austria, France and Italy dating back as far as the 1880s.

Thomas Negovan, the gallery owner said “What I find most striking is the modernity of the visual message,” adding “We tend to view the turn of the century through a sepia-toned lens of quaintness when the truth is that the world then was just as dynamic and thrilling as our lives are today.”

 

The Prints of Darkness Cocaine Poster

Cocaine

“This was a five-act Parisian musical that we believe was performed in 1923,” says Thomas Negovan. “We’re desperately trying to find historical information on this one – it looks like it was quite the show!”

A Parisian musical from circa 1920 (some sources date it as 1923).


The Prints of Darkness The Dance of Death Poster

The Dance of Death aka Totentanz

“This was a silent film Fritz Lang wrote in 1919: in the story, a femme fatale lures men to their deaths until she falls in love with one of her potential victims. There’s only one known copy of the original English-language poster.”

In this very early Fritz Lang script, Sascha Guru uses her feminine wiles to lure men to their deaths in a labyrinth beneath the house of her crippled, evil lover. While this poster is erroneously credited to Josef Fenneker in numerous places across the internet. Fenneker produced the poster for the Marmorhaus premiere in Berlin, and Theo Matejko created the poster for the Austrian release. This poster is unsigned, and while elements of Fenneker are suggested, it is extremely unlikely that the hand that created this artwork was his.


The Prints of Darkness L'Hecatombe La Syphilis Poster

L’Hecatombe – La Syphilis

“An image meant to warn Belgian soldiers returning from the front of the dangers of ‘The French Pox’. It depicts a dangerous woman standing both seductively and menacingly in front of a field of graves.”


The Prints of Darkness Opium Poster

Opium

“This 1919 silent film was released during a lull in censorship restrictions after the first world war. Crowds lined up around the block for weeks to see its celebration of decadence and sexual liberty. The rare original poster is six feet tall.”


The Prints of Darkness Alraune Poster

Alraune

“This 1918 film, takes the superstition that witches would use mandrake root and the semen of a hanged man to impregnate themselves, and gives it a scientific update. The resulting child grows up to leave a trail of men in her wake – including the man who created her. A landmark of early horror.”

Alraune (German for Mandrake) is a novel by German occult novelist Hanns Heinz Ewers published in 1911; it is also the name of the female lead character. This poster is for the Austrian release of the 1918 German silent film.

A contemporary take on the alchemy of the mystical mandrake root. A scientist, Professor Jakob ten Brinken, interested in the laws of heredity, impregnates a prostitute in a laboratory with the semen of a hanged murderer. The prostitute conceives a female child who has no concept of love, whom the professor adopts. The girl, Alraune, suffers from obsessive sexuality and perverse relationships throughout her life. She learns of her unnatural origins and she avenges herself against the professor.


The Prints of Darkness The Victims of Alcohol Poster

The Victims of Alcohol aka Les Victimes de L’Alcool

“The poster illustrates the course of a 1911 silent film where a man goes from devout husband and father to finding himself alone in an insane asylum because of his dalliances with absinthe.”

Alraune (German for Mandrake) is a novel by German occult novelist Hanns Heinz Ewers published in 1911; it is also the name of the female lead character. This poster is for the Austrian release of the 1918 German silent film.

A contemporary take on the alchemy of the mystical mandrake root. A scientist, Professor Jakob ten Brinken, interested in the laws of heredity, impregnates a prostitute in a laboratory with the semen of a hanged murderer. The prostitute conceives a female child who has no concept of love, whom the professor adopts. The girl, Alraune, suffers from obsessive sexuality and perverse relationships throughout her life. She learns of her unnatural origins and she avenges herself against the professor.


The Prints of Darkness Teatro alla Scala Verdi Poster

Teatro alla Scala: Verdi

“In 1913, conductor Arturo Toscanini gathered the greatest performers of the day to honour the centenary of the birth of opera legend Giuseppe Verdi. One of the rarest posters we’ve ever had the good fortune to come across, the original is a majestic 10 feet tall and on permanent display in our gallery. Giuseppe Palanti, who created the poster, was also Verdi’s set designer.”

A poster honouring Guiseppi Verdi. On the hundredth anniversary of Verdi’s birth – 1913 – Arturo Toscanini gathered the greatest Opera singers and musicians of the day to perform a series of the Master’s works. Also relevant was the opening of the Museo de Teatro alla Scala – it was a year devoted to Verdi


The Prints of Darkness The Eleven Executioners Poster

The Eleven Executioners aka Die Elf Scharfrichter

“The Eleven Executioners, or Die Elf Scharfrichter, was first popular cabaret in Munich, Germany, and its subject matter was political humour. Marya Delvard used to sing underneath a single spotlight, creating a performance that was both chilling and enticing. This poster is from a 1902 performance.”

“The problem of censorship was solved by making the cabaret a private club. The programme began with the Executioners dancing and singing grotesquely on stage, throwing their blooded robes around with abandon. This was followed by a mixture of chansons, recitations, puppet plays, dramatic pieces and literary parodies. One of the cabaret’s stars was femme fatale Marya Delvard, a woman vamp, dressed in black with chalk white face, who sang in a stylised manner. Her effect on audiences was electric.” – Dinner theatre poster by T.T. Heine, 1900.


The Prints of Darkness Rasputin Poster

Rasputin

“After Rasputin’s demise, a number of films chronicled the larger-than-life tale of his fascinating character; this is for a Danish release circa 1920.”


The Prints of Darkness Anti Alcohol Poster

Anti-Alcohol aka Az Alkohol

“A 1912 poster ‘against alcohol’.”


The Prints of Darkness Elimin Roach Poison Poster

Elimin Roach Poison

“A terrifying late-19th century advertisement for roach poison.”


The Prints of Darkness Beauty and the Beast Poster

Beauty and the Beast (Light and Shadow)

“A poster by Walter Schnackenberg, advertising a Munich dance performance in 1919, loosely based on Beauty and the Beast. The image is suggestive of contemporary Japanese anime.”


 

NOTE: Images and quotes have been sourced from Century Guild.

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