The world in miniature

The world in miniature

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  • Type of Fuégiens

    LITTLE Pierre Lanith (1831 - 1909)

  • Omaha Group

    BONAPARTE Roland (1858 - 1924)

  • Two wrestlers (1910)

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Title: Type of Fuégiens

Author : LITTLE Pierre Lanith (1831 - 1909)

Creation date : 1881 -

Date shown: September 1881

Technique and other indications: Original caption: "Tierra del Fuego or Magellan Archipelago. South America. Type of Fuégiens."

Storage place: Quai Branly Museum - Jacques Chirac website

Contact copyright: quai Branly museum - Jacques Chirac, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Quai Branly museum image - Jacques Chirac Link to image

Picture reference: PV0062660 / 16-548063

© musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Quai Branly museum image - Jacques Chirac

© musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Quai Branly museum image - Jacques Chirac

To close

Title: Two wrestlers (1910)

Author :

Creation date : 1910 -

Dimensions: Height 13.7 cm - Width 8.8 cm

Storage place: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: RMN-Grand Palais (MuCEM) / Franck RauxLink to image

Picture reference: 09-540065 / Sou.A.1316

© RMN-Grand Palais (MuCEM) / Franck Raux

Publication date: June 2020

Historical context

Conquering the world

From the Fuegians of Patagonia in 1881 to the “mysterious” African wrestlers of 1910, including the American Indians Omaha in 1893, the visitor to the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris was able to come and examine a whole set of exotic peoples by the color of their colors. skin and their way of life. Photographer Pierre Petit (1831-1909), prince geographer Roland Bonaparte (1858-1924) and their anonymous colleagues have multiplied the photos intended for both ethnographic collections and for postcard marketing.

It was also the era of circuses and "freak shows", menageries and curiosity cabinets, which attracted audiences eager for novelty and strangeness. Following the pioneer Hagenbeck in Hamburg (1874), the Garden launched fashion in Paris in 1877, fulfilling the expectations of visitors between the various universal and colonial exhibitions where one or more "villages" (Negro, Annamite , etc.).

Image Analysis

The art of reconstruction

Pierre Petit photographed a group of Fuégiens from Patagonia in the heart of Bois de Boulogne at the Jardin d'Acclimatation, as he indicates on the map he subsequently sells. The document printed on strong paper also bears the name of the professional and the address of his workshop, and specifies that the cliché is "deposited", that is to say protected from any unauthorized copying. The image itself shows two children, three women, three young men and two more mature men, all almost naked. Two hold bows (without arrows) and one a spear. They are squatting against a backdrop of plants characteristic of the temperate climate, which appear to have been installed to provide a screen. The faces are closed, the close up form smirks, the looks are slightly worried.

Two years later, Roland Bonaparte took advantage of the arrival of Indians from North America to make an entire series of shots. Alongside the individual face and profile shots, which herald Bertillon's anthropometric methods, he also documents the temporary installation of these representatives of the Omaha tribe adorned with the attributes expected of this type of “savage”: feathers in their hair, pearl necklaces, embroidered tunics and the inevitable tomahawks. More relaxed than the Fuégiens, they pose here in a singular mixture of after-nature reconstruction and European setting: in the background stands not only a tipi, but an African hut; the wooden trellis, the mulched chairs and the trees betray the backdrop on the outskirts of the French capital.

The snapshot of two West Africans clashing in a very static struggle is part of an important series of postcards edited by ND Phot [ographer], "Mysterious Africa", with number 66. Against the background of the trees of the Bois de Boulogne, the garden agents have recreated a traditional habitat made up of exotic plants and apparently dressed the permanent buildings in the same costume. In the foreground, professionally fixing the lens, two muscular men, firmly planted on their feet, mimic a hold. As is customary for "negroes", they are shirtless; their clothing consists of wide canvas pants and a series of objects reminiscent of amulets. The shaved head and attitude remind one of the gladiators of the Roman era.


Different cultures

Viewers at exhibitions judge the authenticity of the scenes presented to them to varying degrees, but raw curiosity outweighs the desire to know how the "savages" got to them. The Fuégiens, for example, were transplanted by a certain Waalen, who had been living in Tierra del Fuego for a long time. In September and October 1881 they attracted no less than 400,000 visitors. These Patagonians formed one of the earliest cohorts of a group that totaled some 40,000 indigenous people. For a century, they were recruited as extras and gave performances in around thirty countries, in Europe, America and Asia (Japan and China). Unlike the Fuegians, the 19 Omahas were already partly literate and evangelized, and are especially used to playing a role set by shows like that of Buffalo Bill. They negotiated special conditions and produced elementary crafts on site for sale. The commercial trend in Paris quickly won over the scientific issues. We see it in the "anthropologist" prince, who usually seeks to fix types on gelatin, but whose cliché here resembles Petit's approach: he uses the setting to sketch out a story ... and to ensure the sale of cards by tens of thousands.

In the 1890s, the Garden lost its monopoly on exhibitions and the focus shifted to black Africa, particularly from the West where France had extended its empire. People are exposed as riches to be exploited and humans to be civilized. The exhibition of the Other thus allows a reassurance of identity for nation-states under construction, in an era of major social and anthropological upheaval (rural exodus, advent of speed). In 1910, the presence of "negroes" and the reconstitution of villages is now a must of any major exhibition. The ambition of the 1910 season goes beyond anything that has been undertaken so far: it is all of Africa whose "mysteries" are claimed to be unveiled. European ethnocentrism has not changed since the 1870s. Only a few connoisseurs and minority anti-colonialists dare to criticize the degrading forms of this kind of spectacle designed to generate significant income, of which the extras receive only a tiny fraction. Their exhibitions must no longer conform to the experience outside Europe which one would seek to describe for those who cannot travel, but to the caricatured opinion that Europeans have of these pre-industrial lifestyles. The denial of an authentic culture blinds Europeans who are reassured of the superiority of their civilization; the natives, on the other hand, end up losing their customs by dint of offering a simulacrum.

  • ethnography
  • geography
  • Native Americans
  • Acclimatization garden
  • Paris
  • Parisians
  • photography


Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard, Gilles Boëtsch, Sandrine Lemaire (dir.), Human zoos and colonial exhibitions : 150 years of inventions of the Other, Paris, La Découverte, 2011.

Pascal Blanchard, Gilles Boëtsch, Nanette Jacomijn Snoep (dir.), Exhibitions : The invention of the savage, Paris, Actes Sud, Quai Branly Museum, 2011.

Jean Copans, Jean Jamin, At the origins of French anthropology, Paris, J-M Place, 1994.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The world in miniature"

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