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Illustrating Carnival: Remembering the Overlooked Artists Behind Early Mardi Gras

For more than 150 years the city of New Orleans has been known for the theatricality and extravagance of its Mardi Gras celebrations. Allison C. Meier looks at the wonderfully ornate float and costume designs from Carnival’s “Golden Age” and the group of New Orleans artists who created them.


The Great Depression effectively ended this period of no-expense-spared Mardi Gras, yet its spirit of visual exuberance thrives into the twenty-first century. The papier-mâché, wood, paint, and maybe a few fake jewels, used to turn an ordinary person into a trickster devil or graceful half-human, half-butterfly, and a horse-drawn cart into a wonderland, endure in the spirit of Carnival creation.
As the annual bacchanalia of parades, processions, and parties continues in New Orleans, there are still threads to follow back to these artists who shaped fantasies into reality.
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