“Savonnage Infructueux,” (Fruitless Soaping)

Item Description

In this image, the “traitor” Dreyfus is beyond recognition, his features distorted by the conventions of anti-Semitic caricature. He receives the monetary ablutions of another stereotyped Jew who bears a large masonic pendant. The paranoid casting of the Jewish people as part of a complex “Masonic” plot was common amongst anti-Semites, and Masonic iconography in an image like this would have signaled a conspiratorial agenda of Jews, Masons, socialists and rootless finance capitalists seeking to destroy France. Chanteclair combines these three types in the figure on our right, who is engaged in a fruitless attempt to launder the guilt of his comrade. “Only blood can clean a stain like this,” the caption warns, as a shadowy group of armed men, readying their guns, forms in the background. Only weeks after Dreyfus had been accused in the pages of La Libre Parole, Chanteclair’s cartoon is intended as a warning for those seeking to expunge the captain of his guilt.