Oh gods, these are beyond fabulous! I am so in love with the Coral polyp costume. Also in love with the bat, so cheerful!
On March 6, 1889, the New York Times breathlessly reported on the recent Carnival spectacles in New Orleans. The Krewe of Rex’s pageant, themed around “Treasures of the Earth”, included a “Crystal” float “attended by figures in gorgeous costumes and prisms by the thousand”, and a “Diamond” float featuring “a rocky diamond dell” through which flowed “limpid streams where nymphs sported and played with the gems”. The Krewe of Proteus, meanwhile, dazzled with their “Hindoo Heavens” pageant, where in one scene appeared Agni “God of Fire” riding a ram that “strides the flames, attended by the fire sprites.” This opulent, and highly exoticized, interpretation of South Asian religion concluded with a tableau where “Vishnu, under the guise of a horse with silver wings, shatters the earth with his hoof and rises to the celestial abode.”
The modern American Mardi Gras owes much of its bombastic revelry to this late nineteenth-century “Golden Age” of Carnival design. From the invitations to the costumes to the hand fans carried by spectators, artists designed entire identities for each Krewe (a group that organizes a Carnival event).
Mythology, literature, religion, and history, as well as nineteenth-century book illustration and turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau, were remixed into an eclectic excess. Up to the early 1900s, the main Krewes were Rex, Comus, Proteus, and Momus, each with their favorite artist collaborators. The names of these individuals are now obscure, but artists Jennie Wilde, Bror Anders Wikstrom, Charles Briton, Carlotta Bonnecaze, and others now anonymous all influenced the embrace of the fantastic that endures into the present. The greatest publicly accessible resource of their art is the Carnival Collection, part of the Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) at Tulane University and supported by a bequest from the late journalist Charles L. “Pie” Dufour. In 2012, Tulane marked the completion of a two-year digitization project that put over 5,500 float and costume designs in the Carnival Collection online.
You can read and see so much more at The Public Domain Review, every single piece of artwork is utterly amazing and delightful! You can see all the images at a much larger size at the Tulane University source site. If you’re someone always on the lookout for inspired costume design, you cannot afford to miss these.