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Le prix de la maison du passeur

Le prix de la maison du passeur

Eduardo Garcia Benito (1891-1981)
Le prix de la maison du passeur…
The prize of the Ferryman’s house…
Woodcut with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. 1915.
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994

No. 43 from the 2nd series La Grande Guerre .

A continuation of the news reported in no. 27 from the Yser region in Belgium, but offering viewers a closer study of the Zouaves, soldiers from French colonies in Africa, wearing their customised uniforms including the saroual (see also no. 6 ). Les Joyeux d’Afrique was the name of the Battalion of Light Infantry of Africa (‘ Bat’ d’Af ‘), made up men serving time in prison who had not yet completed their military service.

The title refers to a house near to a strategically important bridge on the bank of the Yser canal that had been occupied by the Germans and turned into a make-shift fortress. French troops, including numbers of Zouaves, charged with bayonets against German machine guns. Those men who survived the advance waged hand-to-hand combat and succeeded in taking the building. That Benito concentrates on the heroic charge is a sign that artists were limited by the scant official reports available to the public and relied on their imagination.

Some of Benito’s woodcuts are emphatically static (compare to no. 42 on the previous page), embracing the style of French popular prints ( imagerie ), such as those produced in Épinal. But this is one of the most dynamic images of the series, the charging soldiers framed by the funnel of grey-pink smoke.

The French caption with English translation:

LE PRIX DE LA MAISON DU PASSEUR. Les Zouaves et les joyeux d’Afrique
On se rappelle les combats acharnés livrés il y a quelques semaines sur l’Yser, autour d’un point stratégique appelé la “maison du passeur”. L’un de ces combats fut livré par les zouves et les joyeux d’Afrique avec un admirable entrain. Pendant la nuit ils s’avancèrent doucement, sans bruit, sans tirer un coup de feu, et surprirent ainsi les sentinelles avancées. Au point du jour, ils s’élancèrent, dans une superbe charge à la baïonette, à l’assaut des tranchées qu’ils enlevèrent magnifiquement, restant ainsi maîtres de la “maison du passeur”. Pendant les attaques, bien des actes d’héroïsme individuels de nos braves soldats méritèrent d’être récompensés.

The prize of the Ferryman’s house. The Zouaves and Les Joyeux d’Afrique
We remember the fierce fighting delivered a few weeks ago on the Yser around a strategic point known as ‘the Ferryman’s house’. One of the battles was fought by the Zouaves and the joyful [soldiers] of Africa with admirable gusto. During the night they advanced slowly silently without firing a shot, and so surprised the sentinels. At daybreak they charged forward with bayonets, to attack the trenches, and captured them beautifully, remaining masters of the Ferryman’s house. During the attacks, many individual acts of heroism of our soldiers deserve to be rewarded.


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