Armenian News Network / Groong
An Introduction and Some Background to Our Video
“An Intimate Look at a Bronze Statue of Emmanuel Fremiet’s
Gorilla and Woman”
Installed in Allerton Park and Retreat Center,
University of Illinois, Monticello, Illinois.
Appreciating More Fully A Marketing Strategy Used for the Film
News Network / Groong
September 6, 2021
by Eugene L. Taylor and Abraham D. Krikorian
Probing the Photographic Record
LONG ISLAND, NY
For us, a special feature of the advertising connected with the film “Ravished Armenia” involved some rather high quality and very interesting art work issued as a poster. As it turned out, specimens of this key piece of art work were rather rare as well, and only a few good quality copies of it are known to exist today (see Fig. 3).
Photographic reproduction of a “Ravished Armenia” movie marquée poster. It shows a very dark-complected, mean-looking “Unspeakable Turk” (a term long-used as a general pejorative) brandishing a huge sword and kidnapping and carrying off a very fair-skinned victimized Armenian maiden for subsequent ravishing and abuse. The presence of a full moon in the background confirms that this scene is occurring at night. The upper left side of the poster reads “That all America may see and understand.” Courtesy of Political Poster Collection No. 4187, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University.
In short, we undertook as detailed a study of the movie poster for “Ravished Armenia” as we could in view of the circumstances. We published the first of our findings on Groong (Taylor and Krikorian, 2010) and were pleased that it elicited a fair amount of interest. (A dealer who had newly found two good quality original specimens of the poster contacted us for information. We showed a real interest in buying one but as it turned out, they were sold at very hefty prices beyond our means.)
This online post was followed up with a more detailed print paper entitled “Ravished Armenia Revisited:” Some Additions to “A Brief Assessment of the Ravished Armenia Marquee Poster” (Taylor and Krikorian, 2010b). The images in this paper were in black and white whereas many of the ones posted on Groong were in color.
The key point that emerged from our extensive investigations was that the theme of the marquee poster produced for advertising and accompanying the screening of the film “Ravished Armenia” in places like theater lobbies, derived after several iterations and versions of work by various illustrators and artists. Of paramount importance was the concept behind a sculpture made by French ‘animalier’ sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet using a gorilla and woman as the prototype for the unbridled Turkish ruffian and accosted Armenian maiden.
See Fig. 4 below for a portrait of Emmanuel Frémiet published on the cover of Le Journal Illustré 14 August 1892, 29the year, No. 33 Sunday. The drawn image was by one H. Meyer, and the engraver signed himself as N.M. This issue of the journal included a short feature of Frémiet because he had been newly elected to the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts.
We found some additional very helpful confirmation for our findings about the Poster and Frémiet’s gorilla and woman sculpture when we succeeded in tracking down a full page advertisement for “Ravished Armenia” in The Saturday Evening Post. (We have never encountered a good quality full page copy with the illustration of this elsewhere. Smaller and less well-defined versions of the image were used widely however in various newspaper articles.)
A page from The Saturday Evening Post that presents the theme of the “Ravished Armenia” marquee poster in the form of a good quality drawing. This drawing leaves little to the imagination as to what the film was about, and artist Dan Smith clearly credited his inspiration for his drawing “after E. Fremiet.” Readers may justifiably argue that the text is more than a bit overstated but admittedly it is effective. Scanned from an original print copy of The Saturday Evening Post volume 191, (no. 29) January 18, 1919 pg. 28).
Frémiet had become especially well-known for his works dealing with animals early on in his career but he was also quite versatile with not only animals but a wide range of subjects - even a much-appreciated statue of Joan of Arc on her horse. His “Gorille” sculpture which was presented at the Paris salon in 1887 arguably marked the full flowering of his prolific production of exotic art work. ‘Gorille’ was controversial. Some thought its very presentation was a scandal. The “Gorille” carrying off a woman was described later on as deserving the most outrageous Freudian interpretations. The sculpture went through several versions. The first was a life-size plaster, destroyed early on, entitled Gorille enlevant une négresse [Gorilla Carrying off a Negress] and was presented as early as 1859. He followed with others using more or less the same theme of abduction (see Fig.6.).
An American commentator said that his “well-known statue of a gorilla dragging a woman through the forest would be more lifelike if the gorilla were a man. Gorillas never kill their wives.”
And so it began. The general concept of the supposedly savage, ruthless gorilla becoming the prototype and representative for uncivilized, uncouth, aggressive and violent human behavior especially so far as young maidens were concerned, soon became adopted as the ‘norm.’ The truth is that the gorilla is a gentle, even shy animal. We have been privileged to see them in their native habitat. See:
Emmanuel Frémiet’s “Gorille” scanned from L’Art, Revue bi-mensuelle illustrée 1887 vol. 13, pg. 83. This journal is also known as L’Art: revue hebdomaire illustrée. The top of the page reads “Salon de 1887.” The commentary beneath the image points out that the heliogravure of Frémiet’s sculpture was by one Dujardin.
The adoption of the theme of communicating ruthless, brute force from the gorilla to ‘the Turk’ had a number of predecessors. We shall present a few examples of switching prototype portrayal and transferring looks as well. It will give an idea of the range of themes and contexts from which a boorish thuggish gorilla emerged and got solidified. First and foremost, the idea of sex and violence and lack of any civility is paramount in each of these (see Figs. 7 through 10).
“White Slavery.” From cover of Leslie’s, the People’s Weekly September 12, 1912.
Figs. 8a, 8b and 8c. Cartoon in the French weekly satirical journal Baionnette vol. 35, 2 March 1916.
The caption translates as “The Product of German Science.” The primitive modern German soldier has been produced through ingenious atavism to say the least.
Cropped from Fig. 8a.
Cropped from Fig. 8a.
Cartoon originally published in the German satirical weekly journal Lustige Blätter (Munich). This was reprinted in Cartoons Magazine, 1916 pg. 790 under the caption Watchful Waiting in the Balkans. The caption continues “The Victim [Das Opfer]. You beast! Then has it come to this? You’ve dragged Greece to the precipice… “We’re coming for you, John Gorilla.” Drawing by the German graphic artist W.A. Wellner.
Cartoon with caption (not shown here) asking “How can the world make peace with this thing?” From Current History (NY Times) vol. 8, no. 3 1918 pg. 558. The maiden is labelled “Civilization” and the German gorilla carries the label “The World Curse of Prussianism.” It was originally published in The Columbus [Ohio] Dispatch. The inset states “This is intolerable thing…..without conscience or honor or capacity for covenanted peace.” Statement credited to President Woodrow Wilson Dec. 4, 1917.
German soldier, ‘the Hun,’ (perhaps even Kaiser William II himself) portrayed wearing a Pickelhaube spiked helmet-wearing fierce gorilla reaching out across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to the shores of the United States to grab ‘Lady Liberty.’ The gorilla already clutches yet another female figure, probably Belgium or France. A burning Cathedral - most likely the Cathedral of St. Pierre in Louvain, Belgium which the Germans destroyed in the early stages of World War I, military vehicles in the air like airplanes and a dirigible, and artillery rubble may be seen in the background and foreground. Cartoon by J. Norman Lynd, around 1917. Philadelphia: The Colonial Press. From Library of Congress Prints & Photographs.
A point that has seized our attention early on and has stuck in our minds about advertising “Ravished Armenia” is that while the Frémiet Gorilla analogy poster for the film was certainly the most popular and widely used advertising and presentation style, it may have been thought by some that using something perhaps a bit less directly sexual and damning might be useful as well for a specific advertisement purpose (see Fig. 12a.). A color page published in the Sunday weekly edition of the New York American 12 January 1919 featured a girl with shackles torn asunder and the caption “How Little Aurora Mardiganian, who escaped from the cruel Turks, is helping to raise $30,000,000 to save what is left of these persecuted Christians.” The very successful commercial artist and illustrator Howard Chandler Christy has signed this page.
The inset Fig. 12b. gives more details. The original published page is 21 inches in height and 16 and a half inches wide.
Enlargement of inset Fig. 12a.
Typographical error $30,000,000, not $300,000,000.
Perhaps the way to get a broad yet detailed overview of Frémiet’s gorilla statues, and their significance up to the present, is to read Gott and Weir (2013). Earlier publications by Gott are very useful as well (see Gott, 2005, 2007). His 2013 work features a bronze version of “Gorille” by Frémiet which was in the collection of the Victoria Museum of Art in Melbourne, Australia. A special feature of Gott’s work traces in great detail how the Melbourne specimen of Frémiet’s “Gorilla” came into the possession of the Victoria Museum.
There are also some interesting stories, but unfortunately these are as yet not well documented, regarding how a specimen of the “Gorilla” made its way into the collection of the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana. It seems that an American, Samuel Allerton, while in Paris, visited Frémiet’s studio and purchased a couple of his statues. One was the “Gorille.” It is said that Frémiet needed money to re-do the base of his magnificent statue of Joan of Arc which was apparently sinking and needed renewal.
The statues ultimately made their way to Chicago and finally ended up many years later in 1986 being moved from the Allerton Park estate, part of a piece of property donated by John Allerton, the adopted son of Samuel Allerton, to the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois located on the Champaign campus.
Amazingly, or perhaps not-so-amazingly, some artists at the University took it on themselves to complain about the two Frémiet statues that were on display at an exhibit at the Krannert. [We will not bother covering the second statue since our focus is on the Gorilla.] They went so far as to insist that the statues be melted down! Fortunately, this never came to pass.
When we first learned of the “Gorilla” statue being at the Krannert Museum, we placed it on our schedule to visit the Museum and see the statue on our next cross-country trip, and did so in 2017. We posted a video on our Conscience Films YouTube site in September 2021 which goes into some detail about how the statue of the gorilla made its way back to the Allerton Estate in Monticello, Illinois.
<![if !vml]><![endif]>Fig. 13.
Photograph taken on first sighting by us at Allerton Park in October 2017.
Brault, Samantha R. (2016) “The Barbarians of Hollywood”: The exploitation of Aurora Mardiganian by the American film industry. Butler Journal of Undergraduate Research vol. 2, Article 18, 22-33.
Gott, Ted (2005) Stowed away. Emmanuel Frémiet’s Carrying Off a Woman. Art Bulletin of Victoria (Melbourne) 45, 6-17.
Gott, Ted (2007)‘It is lovely to be a gorilla, sometimes’: the art and influence of Emmanuel Fremiet, Gorilla Sculptor, pgs. 198-219, In D.R. Marshall, ed., Art, site and spectacle: studies in early modern visual culture. Melbourne, Victoria, Fine Arts Network.
Gott, Ted and Weir, Kathryn (2013) “Gorilla.” Reaktion Books: London.
Taylor, Eugene L. and Krikorian, Abraham D. (2010a, Dec. 20, 2010 Groong) by “A brief assessment of the Ravished Armenia Marquee Poster by Amber Karlins: published as a Research Note in the Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies 19:1 (2010), pgs. 137-145: Filling in Some Gaps and a Call for Information”.
Taylor, Eugene L and Krikorian, Abraham D. (2010b) “Ravished Armenia: Revisited:” Some Additions to “A Brief Assessment of the Ravished Armenian Marquee Poster,” Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies 19:2 (2010), pgs. 179-215.
Torchin, Leshu (2005) “Ravished Armenia: Visual media, humanitarian advocacy, and the formation of witnessing publics,” American Anthropologist Vol. 108, March, pgs. 214-220.
Zgörniak, Marek with Marta Kupera and Mark Singer (2006) Gorillas” Why do they carry off women? Artibus et Historiae Vol. 27, pgs. 219-237.
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