Armenian News Network / Groong

French Political Satirist Orens Denizard Decries Sultan Abdul Hamid II in his 1903-1904 Cartoons Depicting Ruthless Massacres by the Turks:

Europe’s failure to stop the Armenian massacres of the 1890s was the go-ahead for “Abdul the Damned” to viciously suppress the Macedonians in 1903


Armenian News Network / Groong
October 4, 2017


Special to Groong by Eugene L. Taylor and Abraham D. Krikorian

Long Island, NY


We are great fans of T.E. Lawrence (Thomas Edward Lawrence) and have seen the film Lawrence of Arabia many times.  Every time we watch it, we appreciate it even more.  Many will recall that the two young Arab boys in his service called him “Aurens” (or as Ali, actor Omar Sharif would later have it, “El Aurens.”)  Presumably they had a problem pronouncing LAW-rence. 


Occasionally, one or other of us will jest and address each other as “Oh’renz” – but only in a special context.   (Only relatively recently had we seen it spelled out properly by the filmmakers.)[1]  


Some time back, we made a post on Groong that dealt with what Sultan Abdul Hamid II ‘really’ looked like.  We included in that article, a caricature image on a post card of the “Shadow of God on Earth” [Zil Allah, pronounced then as zil-oullah] or, as we prefer to call him “Abdul the Damned,” dated by the artist September 1902.  It was also ‘signed’ with what we in our ignorance mistakenly read as “Oreds.”  The n of the ‘signature’ looked like a d. [2]


While we did not spend a huge amount of time attempting to track down satirist artist “Oreds,” we got nowhere in the time we did spend.  Why?  Not only because of our misspelling his surname, but also because it appears that Orens has not been well-studied either biographically or from the perspective of his extensive work as a satirist.  We had trouble finding him in lists of cartoonists and satirists or cartoonists.  Once again, we learned that it sometimes takes more than a little time to learn, but learn we did.  See Fig. 1.




Fig. 1


The French text reads “Crochet Turc en Usage en Armenie pour bouchers constant!” and may be translated as “Turkish hook for butchers used non-stop in Armenia.”  Note the date 9 [Septembre] 1902 on the lower right and the signature “Orens” right above it.  Incidentally, we are not sure whether he intended the reader to read left to right, or top and bottom on the left, and top and bottom on the right.  The size of the lettering on the right is slightly smaller.  In either case, it translates pretty much the same.



Most readers will know that there was an outcry against the horrors perpetrated against the Armenians during the Hamidian massacres of 1894 to 1896.  Even when 4-time Prime Minister William E. Gladstone of Great Britain came out of retirement to give an impassioned and fiery final public talk in 1896 condemning the Turks, not much happened that really mattered.  The many lofty concerns voiced on behalf of the Armenians by him and many others even as the atrocities were happening, were in effect, neutralized by the “interests” of the British Empire.  That is not because people like Gladstone were insincere in their feelings, it is just that the situation was “bigger than both of them” as the saying goes.[3]


Be that as it may, and to use a modern expression, Gladstone got a fair amount of “mileage” from his activism on behalf of the Armenians (see Figs. 2, 3 and 4 taken from a rare memorial volume published at the end of May 1898 after his death by The Illustrated London News.)[4]




Fig. 2


Front cover of the fully illustrated memorial volume issued by The Illustrated London News at the end of May 1898.

Gladstone had passed away at his home at Hawarden Castle in Flintshire, Wales (not very far from Liverpool, England) on May 19, 1898 at the age of 88.[4]





Fig. 3


From pg. 26 of the same memorial volume.

“Mr. Gladstone’s Last Public Appearance at a Great Crisis:

his speech at Liverpool on the Armenian Massacres, September 24, 1896.”





Fig. 4




Caption to Fig. 4 retyped below to render it easily readable.


Some 6,000 people assembled in Hengler’s Circus, Liverpool, to hear Mr. Gladstone speak on the Armenian question.  His remarks were received with the utmost enthusiasm.  Perhaps the heartiest cheers were those which greeted the declaration that the government of his country were in no way responsible for the present deplorable situation in Turkey. Then he went on to say: ─ “This is no crusade against Mohammedanism” ─ a sentiment which raised a loud ‘Hear, hear !’ from the audience.  Mr. Gladstone’s voice seemed to gain strength and volume as he warmed to his work, and he carried his audience away when he emphatically declared: ─ “The ground on which we stand here is not British nor European, but it is human.  Nothing narrower than humanity could pretend for a moment justly to represent it.”  “Drawn by Sydney P. Hall.  From a sketch by our special artist A. Cox.”



The brief introduction on Turkish atrocities and massacres against the Armenians just given (and the Bulgarians before that) will allow us to proceed onto the Orens postcards.  Then we will say a bit more about our satirist Charles Bonaventure Orens Denizard (1879-1965). 


It should be pointed out first that Armenia and Macedonia, the latter referred to often in French as a mixed bag of peoples, or Macédoines (rather than Macédonie), posed some very significant and similar “questions” for the European balance of power structure.  Most preferred that both questions “go away.”


The very name “Macedonia” was very confusing to the general reader.  The designation was usually used in its most restricted (and some have said probably most correct) form as meaning the region of the Balkans comprising the three Turkish Vilayets of Salonika, Manastir and Kosovo.  The term “Armenia,” of course, was similarly confusing to many since Armenians did not comprise a majority in any of the six Vilayets in eastern Asia Minor, frequently referred to as Turkish Armenia.   So far as the Turks were concerned there was no “Armenia.”  After all, the last Armenian Kingdom (in Cilicia) had fallen in 1375!


The ‘Armenian Problem’ and the ‘Macedonian Problem’ as usual with the other ‘problems’ of the Empire like the ‘Cretan Problem’ et cetera, were the predictable result of Turkish misadministration and mismanagement.  Corruption, vile outrages and abuses of all sorts, and outright robbery had driven these peoples to desperation and disturbances.  These, of course, were called “revolts” and “uprisings” or “insurrections” or “civil wars” by the Turks. 


The failure of the Ottoman government to settle satisfactorily the “Macedonian problem” and likewise the “Armenian problem” was utterly complete.  Through the terms of the Congress of Berlin, signed in June of 1878, Great Britain and Germany preserved for the Ottoman Empire, the bulk of the Macedonian regions that would have been lost in the treaty of San Stefano.  Article 23 was supposed to provide reforms and improvements for the Macedonians, who were primarily Orthodox ethnic Bulgarian Christians.  Article 61 of the Treaty, which was equally ‘toothless’ was supposed to provide security and improvements for the Armenians.  Neither of these promises was kept.  Simply put, promised reforms never materialized.  Nor were they intended to materialize.  Sultan Abdul Hamid II had outfoxed them all. .  He got loans for his bankrupt Empire and never delivered anything but misery and even more suppression.


One contemporary author summed it up as follows:- “Great Britain saved the Ottoman Empire from a material loss of territory and advanced her own interests in the Near-East by this action, but left European Turkey and the Armenians practically at the mercy of the sultan [Abdul Hamid II].”


We hope that a bit more on Sultan Abdul Hamid II will provide a better understanding of the postcards that follow.


Sultan Abdul Hamid II has been described as a “Tyrant.”[6]  For us that is an understatement.  He was abhorrent, ultimately a paranoid.  He supposedly had elegant manners.  Maybe so.   But when all is said and done, he was an absolute ruler and despot who wielded unlimited power and never hesitated to use it.  One of the problems facing those seeking to understand the period of interest to us here is that what we today usually regard as the concept of “human rights” was not really dreamed of in his Empire.  This was especially the case when it came to the so-called tolerated but none-the-less infidel population, i.e. non-Muslim people, particularly Christians.  So-called “giaours” [infidels—sometimes spelled “gavurs”] were certainly second-class subjects.  In our opinion, the concept of “citizen” was never fully espoused in the Ottoman Empire - even when or after a Constitution was restored.  The (to us ridiculous) insistence by ‘modern scholars’ that one should not use the term “Turks” but rather (nominally for the sake of accuracy) “Ottomans.”  By that mentality, we are apparently supposed to believe that the Ottoman Empire was constituted of peoples called Ottomans - all of whom were fairly treated.  Rubbish! Talk about revisionism so as to render ‘the Turks’ blameless for anything untoward!  It was, after all, ‘the Ottomans’ who did this or that.  And, on the other side of the coin, all the arts and crafts and many of the architectural achievements carried out by Christians, are thereby to be credited to “identity-neutral” “Ottomans.”[7]





We are told on the Internet that Orens Denizard, was born on May 8, 1879 at Pontru, France (about 132 km north of Paris) and died in 1965 in Paris.  We will use his shortened name Orens Denizard because it is the one used on the niche (drawer no. 2055 with his remains) at the PŹre Lachaise cemetery in Paris.  Clearly, it is shorter than Charles Bonaventure Orens Denizard! 


As mentioned, there has not been much critical biographical work done on him (note that we could not come up with a specific death date) but it is fair to say, there has been some study of his work.[5]  Not to worry, for we believe that Orens’ rendition of the vile outrages carried out under the name of Sultan Abdul Hamid II are very “in-your-face.”  They are unrelentingly aggressive, even savage.  They pose no problems in interpretation. 


It has been said that political cartoons reflect the views of a society at the time of an event.  Whatever!  One thing they do, however, is they reflect trends in behavior.  The ideology is probably ignored in most except that they reflect apathy on the part of the power structure.  Pragmatism reigns supreme.  See Fig. 5.





Fig. 5


Here we are ungracious enough to see a sneaky despot.  Sultan Abdul Hamid’s ear-ring/ear-hooks suspend crosses and clearly reflect the Sultan’s sporadic animosity towards non-Muslims, foremost among them the Armenians.

Note the “Orens” signature on the edge of the blade of the stylized Yatagan sword.  Our copy of this postcard is unused and hence undated, and the card itself bears no date from the satirist.  It remains for others to provide a date for it.





Fig. 6


Image of German Kaiser Wilhelm II in his office in front of a sheet of paper on his desk.  There is a pot of ink of Macedonian blood with a feather pen dipped into it ready for the writing on the left forefront.

The Kaiser with a human skull (top part only- a symbol of the defiance of death, reminiscent of the infamous totenkopf [death’s head] of German military notoriety) is deep in thought about what he should do or say?

His buddy [copain] Sultan Abdul Hamid II is seen in the frame (probably an open window?) lit by a candle at the left rear of the scene.  The image is dated 2 [February]1903 and ‘signed.’ 

The German Kaiser remained firm in his nominal ‘friendship’ for the Sultan.

Wilhelm II was immune to all criticism.  Germany had interests in Turkey that would not be compromised by humanitarian concerns for Armenians or Macedonians or anyone else for that matter. 

The imagery of the reclined sword-bearer on the lower right can mean anything to anyone.



Fig. 7

Waiting for the go ahead to murder.  At the back we see “Waiting for a decision from the yellow books.” 

The different countries used variously colored books to 'house' and reflect their official diplomatic documents – e.g. English Blue, French Yellow, Russian Orange, German White, Austro-Hungarian Red, Belgian Grey, Serbian Blue. 

Kaiser William II with his spy glass or telescope quips “It’s you Turk!  Continue! Keep it up!”  Half-a million victims in Macedonian cemeteries are on the lower right. 

Sultan Abdul Hamid II hold his poised dagger in abeyance waiting for the go-ahead.  The date is February 1903 and is ‘signed’ Orens.



Fig. 8

Sultan Abdul Hamid II says to Europe “You allowed me to exterminate 500,000 Armenians.   

Why do you oppose the massacre of Christians in Macedonia [Macédoine]?  Note Kaiser Wilhelm II in the rear.

(We have never appreciated use of the word exterminate (exterminer in French) because it sounds too much like getting rid of unwanted insects or vermin. 

“Wipe out” is perhaps a slightly better if not less gruesome.



Fig. 9

Cartoon from the front page of Puck (New York) vol. 54, no. 1388 October 7, 1903.  The argument was that Russia was behind all the machinations and disturbances and revolts and uprisings because Russia had nominally unilaterally taken over the protection of all Christians under Ottoman Turkish rule.

After all, someone had to do something.  Might as well be a co-religionist.  (Problem for Armenians was that they were not “Greek” or “Russian” or “Serbian” et cetera Eastern Orthodox!)

 Many, like Britain, were suspicious and doubted whether the stated protective role and benign interest of Russia was real.  Britain therefore acted as though all Russia really wanted to get out of this “role of protector” was Constantinople.  The lower right panel shows Bulgaria attacking Macedonia. 

The ridiculous aspect of this is that the bulk of the Macedonians [Macédoines] were every bit as true Bulgarians as were the Bulgarians of Bulgaria!

 Some specialists in language claim that the dialect of Bulgarian spoken in Macedonia was more pure than that spoken in Bulgaria.  Cartoons such as this did little to clarify what was happening. 



Fig. 10

Period post card showing Sultan Abdul Hamid II smoking his water pipe [nergileh in Turkish] and dreaming the successful rain of death on the Macedonians [Macédoine].   Note the Grim Reaper wielding his scythe.

The Sultan’s nightmare [cauchemar in French] is that he himself will be impaled – rectally at that!  (Incidentally, this post card is not by Orens.)



Fig. 11

“Patient Satisfied.”  Cartoon from 1903 showing the “Sick Man” Sultan Abdul Hamid II sick from having been subjected to amputation, that is loss or severance of Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia and Romania from his Empire. 

The legs and arms are in the bloody wooden tub at the front right.  The ministers of Russia Goluchowsky and Austria Lamsdorf write up their ‘consultation’ on a long scroll sheet of paper.  The Sultan, devoid of limbs asks to be allowed to make future ‘improvements.’

Recall that the Sultan said that he could survive loss of his limbs but never the body of his Empire, that is to say Asia Minor.  It is significant that by losing the vast majority of Turkey-in-Europe, which was the most advanced and lucrative from the perspective of revenues,

the interest of the Empire necessarily reverted to Turkey-in-Asia.  It became emphasized as the Vatan or ‘Fatherland.’  We need not dwell on what that meant for the Armenians.

From John Grand-Carteret’s “La Turquie en Images. Une Turquie Nouvelle pour les Turcs” (1909)  Paris: Édition Photographique pg. 70.

This caricature was by Frederick Graetz and appeared originally in Der Floh [The Flea], Vienna, 1903.



Fig. 12

Map of “The Turkish or Ottoman Empire at its Greatest Extent, under the Sultan Suleiman II, the Magnificent (1520 – 1560.”   The territories of “Armenia” became absorbed by the mid- to late 1500s.

From Frederic Austin Ogg’s “Turkey and the age-long struggle for domination of Southeastern Europe.”  Munsey’s Magazine (NY) vol. 4, no. 3 (1915) pgs. 417- 459, at pg. 437.



Fig. 13

Map showing the “Dismemberment of the Turkish Empire, with the dates at which the various provinces were lost. 

The boundary of Turkish Empire in 1683, is shown by a purple line.  The dates are those of Independence from Turkey. 

The Balkan boundaries are present [1915] boundaries.”  From Frederic Austin Ogg’s “Turkey and the age-long struggle for domination of Southeastern Europe.” 

Munsey’s Magazine (NY) vol. 4, no. 3 (1915) pgs. 417-459, at pg. 433.




Amidst the horror and gloom of the imagery we see the hypocrisy and insanity of the nominal ‘leadership’ of the nominally ‘Great Empires’ of Europe and indeed of the period.  As reminders of things past, these postcards are tangible evidence of history – they are valid documents!




[1] See Robert L. Morris and Lawrence Raskin (1992) Lawrence of Arabia: the 30th anniversary pictorial history (Doubleday, New York) xvii, 237 pgs. at pg. 74.  We have yet to figure out why the youths could not say Lawrence since the word for “No” in Arabic is a simple “la” – with an ell pure and simple.  The basis of the jest for us is that in the film the Bedouin tribal chieftain Auda Abu Tayi (played by Anthony Quinn) tells Ali who apparently on some occasion or other had told Auda that Lawrence had only fine points, concluded that Lawrence “is not “perfect.”


[2] Eugene L. Taylor and Abraham D. Krikorian (September 21, 2014, on Groong). “Sultan Abdul Hamid II: What did he really look like?  Caricatures versus photographs.”


[3] See Eugene L. Taylor and Abraham D. Krikorian (December 21, 2015, on Groong).  Satirical Cartoon Published 120 years today, December 21, 1895, on the cover of the weekly magazine Judge (New York): Take home lesson - Money and Profits always trump principles or obligations!”  We may also call attention to a brief paper by William N. Medlicott entitled “Historical revisions. XLVI. Gladstone and the Turks” in History vol. 13, issue 50 1928 pgs. 136-137.  Attention is drawn there to the “his [Gladstone’s] unqualified denunciation of the administrative methods of the Turks never led him to diverge from the established British policy of maintaining a Turkish empire in Europe.”  The famous lines “Let the Turks now carry away their abuses in the only possible manner, namely by carrying off themselves.  Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimbashis and their Yuzbachis, their Kaimakams and their Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage, shall I hope, clear out from the province they have desolated and profaned.”  One should not only read the part just given but also what preceded it.  Namely: - “…I entreat my countrymen, upon whom far more than perhaps any other people of Europe it depends, to require, and to insist, that our Government, which has been working in one direction, shall work in the other, and shall apply all its vigour to concur with the other States of Europe in obtaining the extinction of the Turkish executive power in Bulgaria.  See “The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East” by the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P. (John Murray, Albemarle Street, London, 1876) pg. 31.  And, unless we include what followed where the quote usually is left off, we do not have the full picture of what Gladstone said. “…desolated and profaned.  This thorough riddance, the most blessed deliverance, is the only reparation we can make to the memory of those heaps on heaps of dead; to their violated purity of matron of maiden, and of child; to the civilization which has been affronted and shamed; to the laws of God or, if you like, of Allah; to the moral sense of mankind at large….”  Today, some might say that there is a bit more than a little “backpedaling” given the careful wording.  For a thorough treatment of the Bulgarian massacres see Gladstone and the Bulgarian Agitation 1876 by R.T. Shannon, with an Introduction by G.S.R. Kitson Clark, 2nd ed.  The Harvester Press, Archon Books (Hamden, Conn. 1975).  The jacket of that volume shows a contemporary cartoon of Gladstone chopping down a tree labeled "Turkish Rule" with an alarmed Disraeli looking on.


[4] Gladstone died on May 19, 1898.  His career was especially remarkable in that he served as Prime Minister for a record number of four times!  “William Ewart Gladstone, the history of his life” written by H. W. Massingham [Henry William Massingham, 1860-1924] was published as a special issue of The Illustrated London News at the end of May 1898.  It is sometimes cataloged as “The Life and Political Career of the Right Hon. W.E. Gladstone” by H.W. Massingham.  It is 38 pages long and measures 30 cm wide X 42 cm high.  Our copy is bound but it was first distributed with a paper cover which we reproduced in Fig. 2.


[5] See for example Bruno De Perthuis (2012-2013) Orens Denizard et Le Burin Satirique (1904).  Nouvelles de l’Estampe.  La révue franćaise sur l’image imprimée (hiver, winter number) Numéro 241 pgs. 16 -35; Bruno De Perthuis (2013-2014) Orens Denizard et Le Burin Satirique (1905).  Nouvelles de l’Estampe.  La révue franćaise sur l’image imprimée (hiver, winter number) Numéro 245 pgs.15-28.


[6] See accomplished historian Clive Foss’s volume The Tyrants (2006) published by Quercus in London.  See especially pgs. 119-122 for his insightful coverage of Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909).  

Our only complaint about the entry worth mentioning is that a very early image of the Sultan is included, one in which he was still a Prince!  See [2] above.  Foss has written some excellent papers on how ‘the Turks’ have re-written their history in a way so as to write Armenia and Armenians out of it!  See for example his “Armenian history as seen by twentieth century Turkish historians” in The Armenian Review vol. 45, pgs. 1-52 (1992).


[7] We have seen too many Museum Exhibits and displays featuring “Ottoman this's and that’s” without any mention that they were done by non-Muslims. (Anyone interested can check this statement out by perusing the entries of what’s going on at the rear of issues of AramCo Magazine.)  No shortage of “Ottoman.”


[8] Arguments that Sultan Abdul Hamid II appointed many Christians to important posts are much diminished when one learns that real power and authority was always held by a Muslim superior or overlord.   The ever-present Armenian sycophants and evetjis [“yes men” or those who assent to what the Turkish masters want] were never in short supply.




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