Divery’s War Exhibition portrays a fantastic pile up of captured war materiel presided over by a visionary Goddess of Victory. The war was not yet over for the Central Powers when this triumphant image was issued in 1917. Heavy artillery of several types and sizes were on display in Vienna’s famous Prater Park, one of Europe’s first amusement parks. Captured weapons were apparently reassuring to the public. One of the most dramatic scenes in the Orson Wells movie classic The Third Man was shot on the Prater ferris wheel.
A selection of booty appears above the poster’s brief text which covers its lower quarter. The weapons shown here are all artillery pieces. Most are highly stylized but others can be identified including a naval, deck gun and a French 75 caliber, light artillery piece. How the Austrians got these weapons is a mystery since they were not fighting at sea or against French troops?
There is also something odd about the appearance of a captured English tank which is shown at the center of this martial display. Tanks first appeared at the Battle of Cambrai (1917) when the English attempted to break the stalemate on a section of the Western Front by attacking the startled German trenches with these completely new, tracked, armored vehicles that roared across murderous no-man’s-land. Despite their initial surprise, the English didn’t consolidate their early gains and were not terribly successful. The Austrians didn’t take part in this battle either. So where did their tank come from?
As if giving her blessing to this patriotic tableau, Empress Maria Theresa appears in billowing clouds above the guns below brandishing a laurel wreath, the Austrian icon of victory. She’s quite an imposing figure and immediately makes one think of Mariane, France’s personification of patriotism with the difference being that Maria Theresa was a real person and Mariane was not.
Maria was, as they say, quite a piece of work. Her dynastic connections were like no other. Over her 63 year lifespan (1717-1780) she was the Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, (1740-1780) wife of Emperor Francis II, mother of Emperor Joseph II, Emperor Leopold II and finally the mother of the beautiful but ill fated Maria Antoinette, who, as the wife of France’s King Louis XVI, was beheaded along with her regal spouse in one of the many terrors of the French Revolution. 37×25 near mint, coservation backed.