Winter 2013–2014

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Costume designs created for the Mistick Krewe of Comus by Charles Briton for the 1873 Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. Organized in 1856, Comus was the first of the krewes, or secret societies, that marched in the annual parades held in the city during the days leading up to the beginning of Lenten abstinence. Briton’s costumes were created to illustrate the theme of the organization’s procession that year: “The Missing Links to Darwin’s Origin of Species.” Featuring fantastical representations of a wide range of fauna and flora—the spider and bat seen here, as well as an iguana, a scorpion, a radish, and dozens more—Briton’s designs for the conservative and predominantly Anglo-American Comus krewe were intended to mock both the new theories of evolution and the Reconstruction-era politicians of the day. Darwin, for instance, was portrayed as an ass and Comus’s performance concluded with the crowning of a gorilla, while President Ulysses S. Grant was depicted as a tobacco grub, the much-despised pest. Courtesy Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University.
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