1951 Thiriar Pictorial Map of the Belgian Congo

Congo Belge. - Main View

1951 Thiriar Pictorial Map of the Belgian Congo


African exoticism equates to tourist money.


Congo Belge.
  1951 (undated)     21.5 x 19.5 in (54.61 x 49.53 cm)     1 : 5000000


This is a c. 1951 James Thiriar pictorial map of the Belgian Congo. Thiriar utilizes the era's fascination with African exoticism to entice tourists. Tribal Africans are illustrated via stereotypical, portraits in the lower left. The map emphasizes the Belgian Congo's biodiversity, illustrating elephants, giraffes, lions, rhinoceros, ostrich, and baboons. Traditional African art and ceremonial objects, including masks and statuettes, adorn the border and complete the exotic feel.
Tourism in the Belgian Congo
If tourism statistics are to be believed, then Thiriar's work must have found a modicum of success. 11,437 people visited the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi in 1952 and spent around 600 million francs - an increase of some 100%!
Publication History and Census
This map was drawn by James Thiriar with some decorative work, likely the border, done by Pierre Magraf. At least two editions of the present map were published. The present version was published c. 1951 by the Côte d'Or chocolate company, of which an example is part of the David Rumsey Map Collection. A second, likely earlier edition was published by the Office of Tourism of Belgian Congo and Rwanda-Burundi. Examples are scarce to the 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. More by this mapmaker...


Very good. Light wear along original fold lines.


Rumsey 13296.000.