'Death and Humour' in Early Visual Media are a wide overlapping theme within the precursors of Virtual Reality, Photography, Pre-cinema etc. Many Visual Media inventions, techniques and subjects became popular true entertainment purposes and popular publications.

The Ghost in photography demonstrate the fascination for death and the afterlife. The discovery of X-rays by Röntgen in 1895 unveiled the skeleton inside us and caused a new genre in the scientific medical cartoon.

Circus and fairground where often 'the places' where the common public became confronted with these novelty's such as X-rays. This is also true for the Peepshow, the Magic Lantern, Physiques, Mechanics, Optics, Conjuring arts, Photography, Cinema, etc.

This page will show some interesting examples of images where Death becomes the main actor for humorous results in different media. The purpose of this page is to invite visitors in providing interesting and or hilarious examples of Death as the comedian protagonist.

On the right we see a wonderful colour lithograph published in the popular satire magazine:
l' Assiette au Beurre. Issue "Les Refroidis" No. 156 - 1904. Illustrated by Jossot. Browse through this issue.
"Nous autres 'désincarnés' nous ne coupons pas dans 'l' Au-Dela"
See more of these images on the bottom of the page.
This theme also became most popular in 19
th. Century Ghost photographs.


l' Assiette au Beurre No. 156 - 1904 Illustrations by Jossot.


.By courtesy Concrete Matter

Skeleton on bike


By courtesy Concrete Matter.

Anonymous photographer




The French stereo Diablerie tissue views where a most popular set at the end of the 19th. Century.

Diableries are wonderful examples of death and humour in photography. They where made with a lot of imagination and humour.

To see more diableries from this set click on the following blue links:

Robert A. Schreiber recently published an article "Classification of Diableries" where the social satire of these images is explained.

As can be judged in the stereo image below, the popularity of skeletons is not limited to stereo diableries.
This group is formed of the skeletons of notorious characters, who "left their country for their country's good" according the label on the back of the albumin card.

The definitive book on Stereo Diableries will be published on Halloween 2013 by

'The Skeletons' Carouse', or the Bon Vivants.



From the earliest beginning Death was a major theme in Magic Lantern slides as can be seen in the subsequent Phantasmagoria links.

Do not miss any of the 12 Phantasmagoria links as can be found on the first 'Dance of Death' page.

The photographical Magic Lantern slide shows possibly a joke of a medical student?

Obviously the theme of Ghosts is also most popular among children


By courtesy Concrete Matter

Skeletons dressed in uniforms of public figures to resemble political characters are frequently seen in humorous cartoon photographs.

Often, suchlike images are a social satire of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon III French Emperor of France 1852 - 1870) as told by Robert A. Schreiber in his recent article "Classification of Diableries"

Schreiber's article was published in Stereo World, magazine of the National Stereoscopic Association Volume 30 number 4


See also other web sites: Haunting Images & The Anatomical Wax Collection

'Ghost images' were a normal occurrence in early 19th. Century photographs due to long exposure times and displacement of the subject during this process.

The latter, spontaneous, ghost image can be seen in a detail of a Félix Bonfils image on the right.

Sir David Brewster kindly suggested
The Ghost in the Stereoscope" inspired by this occurrence.

See the image on the left.


"Les Refroidis"

Below we see more colour lithographs published in the popular satire magazine:
l' Assiette au Beurre. Issue "Les Refroidis" No. 156 - 1904. Illustrated by Gustave Henri Jossot (1866 - 1951). Browse through this issue to see all it's images on the humorous death.

l' Assiette au Beurre unifies art and Satire by caricatures made by the most famous caricaturist's of their time; Steinlen, Jean Veber, Willette, Forain, Caran d' Ache, Léandre, Cappiello, Vogel, Faivre, Huard, Jossot, Ibels, Grün, Chéret, Hermann-Paul, Morin, Camara, Géo-Dupuis, etc.

The magazine is most attractive due to his strong political satire but also thanks to the publication of colour lithographs in all issues.
Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder (Bohemia) in 1798. Lithography is the first new printing process since the relief printing techniques invented in the 15
th. Century. In the 19th. Century multi-colored lithographs became popular and know as Chromolithography.

The (Chromo)-lithograph process is a new Visual Media technique in it's own right and became a widely used technique to popularize many other new media. These include reproduction of photographs and pre-cinema items. The majority of 19
th. Century posters is printed by (Chromo)-lithograph techniques. See some examples (Benevol & Fria-Ned) on the Conjuring page. Conjuring books and especially conjuring catalogues of the 18th. & 19th. Century are lavishly illustrated with (Chromo)-lithographs.

Even the early projected image used color lithography to print huge quantities of Children's Magic Lantern slides.

The images below, printed in l' Assiette au Beurre show humorous caricatures inspired by Death, a theme most popular in photography, pre-cinema and many other new media born in the 17th., 18th. & 19th. Centuries. For this, Lithography in general became widely used to spread information on new media before the advent of photography. The latter 'Mirror with Memory' was preceded by the by a special version of the engraving known as Physionotrace.



Surtout époussetez bien mon thorax:
j' ai des toiles d' araignèes a la place du cœur
Jadis, Azor, nous avions des puces..

En habit? Oui! jedois dire
La 'Charogne' de Baudelaire dans une réunion spirite
Quelle attitude méditative! A quoi pense-t-il ?..

Plus de dents!
I mpossible de manger les pissenlits par la racine.

Et pourtant,
Il y avait quelque chose là

J' ai rêvé que j' ètais vivant !!!

As-tu du tabac?..
Cherche danse mon cerveau: j'y fourre des tas de choses..

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he online Media Archaeology Museum version (24) Jan 2017 to Dec 2018 - All rights are protected by SOFAM.be