The eyes have it


Recent picture research turned up issues of L’Oeil de la Police, a lurid French crime magazine that I hadn’t encountered before. It shouldn’t be too surprising when the nation that gave the world the guillotine and Grand Guignol theatre produces magazines filled with gore, but the amount of red ink in these pages (also applied to gun shots and explosions) is certainly unusual for the time. The covers of Le Petit Journal—which ran concurrently with L’Oeil de la Police—also tended to the lurid and gory but the quality of illustration was better there. L’Oeil de la Police is positively cartoon-like, especially on the back covers of each issue which present their disasters in comic-like pages overseen by the spectral Eye of the Law. This is rather disingenuous when many of the scenes don’t involve law-breaking at all, but are reports of natural disasters and fatal accidents. The samples below show the most bizarre feature of the back pages which is the titular Eye in places becoming anthropomorphised, like an atrocity-viewing precursor of the eyeball heads worn by The Residents.


The L’Oeil de la Police archive at Gallica runs from 1908 to 1914 should you require an antique disaster fix. The archive site has improved in recent years but it can still be awkward (and slow) to use so perseverance is required.




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