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1950 Thiriar Pictorial Map of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Congo Nova Descriptio. - Main View

1950 Thiriar Pictorial Map of the Democratic Republic of the Congo


European colonial exoticism at its finest.



Congo Nova Descriptio.
  1950 (undated)     41 x 30 in (104.14 x 76.2 cm)     1 : 3500000


This is a c. 1950 James Thiriar pictorial map of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then known as the Belgian Congo. Meant to capitalize on Belgian interest in the Congo, the map exoticizes the Congo and reinforces the then-positive view of Belgium's role there. Native tribes appear throughout the colony, with red capital letters marking each name. Caricatures of native Congolese in traditional dress create an aesthetic that undoubtedly appealed to schoolchildren across Belgium, many of whom were taught by former Belgian missionaries. These missionaries likely had an extremely positive view of Belgium's presence in the Congo, which they would have passed along to their pupils. Illustrations of traditional Congolese costumes and art, all of which are numbered, are situated along the bottom and right borders and correspond with a bilingual Belgian French and Dutch legend. Thirty-three portraits of different ethnic groups (many of which are likely highly stereotypical) create the border along the top, left, and right sides, and, although unnumbered, correspond with another section of the legend.
Publication History and Census
This map was created and published by the Centre d'Information ed de Documentation du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. An entry appears in OCLC, but it is empty, implying that the affiliated institution has withdrawn its OCLC membership. It is rarely seen on the private market.


James Thiriar (1889 - 1965) was a Belgian illustrator, draughtsman, painter, and costume designer. Born in Ixelles, Belgium, Thiriar was a member of the Belgian Civil Guard, a group tasked with the maintenance of civil law and order, at the outbreak of World War I. Wounded while fighting with the Civil Guards against the German invasion, he joined the Belgian Army in London. His first job for the Belgian Army was with the Topographic Service creating detailed maps and sketches of the front line. Then, Thiriar was transferred to the artistic section, where he produced drawings of the everyday lives of soldiers, many of which were published in The Illustrated London News. He organized exhibitions of his drawings in La Panne and London in 1917 and, under the pseudonym Uilenspiegel, his work appeared in the Belgian French-language magazine L'Yser : Journal hebdomadaire du front belge. His work was also published in the bi-monthly French magazine La Guerre des Nations under the title La guerre sur l'Yser dessinée. He also illustrated Jacques Pirenne's 1917 book Les Vainqueurs de l'Yser. He published his own memoirs about the war, which he also illustrated, entitled Gloire et Misère au Front de Flandres 1914 - 1918. He opened his own studio in Brussels shortly after the war and worked as a costume designer for the Théàtre royal de la Monnaie and worked for several other theater companies. He also worked on set designs and created advertisements for the SNCF. Thiriar participated in the 1932 Belgian exploratory mission to Ruwenzori and painted several notable watercolors and gouaches of vegetation in Congo and Sudan. He provided 232 illustrations for Fernand Gendarme's the three-volume work Croquis Congolais in 1942. Learn More...


Good. Mounted on heavy poster board. Exhibits wear and slight loss along margins. Closed tear extending three inches into printed area from left margin. Exhibits creasing along center.


OCLC 995849861.