The Gods of Asgard at Mardi Gras, 1895

September 15, 2018 | Filed Under History | No Comments

While searching for images of Norse gods, I found the online archives of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University in New Orleans. The archive contains the artwork of the Mardi Gras floats designed by Carlotta Bonnecaze, who designed the floats for the Krewe of Proteus for 11 years. Her work is astonishing, given that the Krewes at the time were the exclusive province of men; however, she was probably the daughter of one of the Krewe members, so, once again, Anonymous was a woman. (For those who are not familiar with Mardi Gras in New Orleans: the city becomes one large party, and there are parades of all kinds, created and presented by “Krewes”, organizations whose members are sworn to secrecy, and who spend the year creating the floats, costumes, etc. for the parades.)

The 1895 theme for the Krewe of Proteus was “The Gods of Asgard”. Bonnecaze designed 19 floats featuring the Norse deities. A few of her drawings:

Fountain of Urd – The Norns – Carlotta Bonnecaze


The Underworld – Carlotta Bonnecaze


Ragnarok – The Last Battle – Carlotta Bonnecaze


Imagine creating these floats and their special effects! While they wouldn’t have had running water or real fire on the floats, they would use fabric and other materials of the time to create the appearance of water and flame.

Bonnecaze also designed the 1893 floats and costumes, themed for the The Kalevala.

Birth of the harp – Wainamoinen, wisdom singer


The Rainbow Maiden


Daughters of Pæivæ, the Sun, and of Kun, the Moon


The one thing the artwork cannot convey is the size of the floats. The Krewe of Proteus prides itself that it is still using many float chassis from the 1880s. While they were originally drawn by horses, they are now drawn by tractor. You can see photos from the 2010 parade, “The Mythology of Astrology“, in the Krewe’s photo archive. To give you an idea of the scale, here are a few photos of the Aquarius float from 2010:

Krewe of Proteus Aquarius Float 2010


Krewe of Proteus Aquarius Float 2010

Krewe of Proteus Aquarius Float 2010


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