Noted poster artist Eugene Oge drew this poster in 1913 as a follow-up to his 1904 poster of the same name. Both posters are advertisements for La Menthe-Pastille, a mint-flavored French liqueur, and both show a similar scene of famous figures gathered around a table, but the posters are quite different.
The first version, printed in 1904, follows the “go-big-or-go-home” philosophy of poster design showing a scene in which thirteen figures, caricatures of world leaders at the time, are crowded around a negotiating table at The Hague while drinking and toasting with La Menthe-Pastille. The text, loosely translated from the French, says, “At the court of the Hague, La Menthe-Pastille fascinates the world;" the mood is all bonhomie.
In this later version created nine years later in 1913, the world leaders, while still gathered around the table, are somewhat different. Instead of thirteen figures, there are only ten in this poster, three of whom (reportedly the kings of Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece) are drawn as puppet-sized figures. As in the 1904 poster, all are portrayed as caricatures of their real selves, and their cartoonish qualities add to the posters' allure.
The messages of these two posters are different, however. At the top of both posters the words are the same, "At the court of the Hague," but in the 1913 poster the phrase (loosely translated), "Saved from peril" is written on the tablecloth. This does not appear in the 1904 poster. Underneath that phrase in bigger print is the caption that appears on both posters, "La Menthe-Pastille."
In 1913, Europe was on the brink of what was to be World War I. Unfortunately, if the phrase "saved from peril" referred to the idea that a world war could be averted if leaders would meet at the negotiating table and bond with each other over a bottle La Menthe-Pastille, this hope was sadly misplaced.
Both posters reveal with satire and exaggerated caricatures the political machinations and power plays that dominated the pre-WWI era. To no one’s surprise, these posters are still quite popular and have become classic examples of the incorporation of politics and current events into an advertising campaign.
One might not even notice that these very edgy political posters are actually advertisements for a liqueur, were it not for the prominent banner hanging on the front of the table that proclaims “La Menthe-Pastille.”
Eugene Oge (1861-1936), who designed this series of posters (and there was a third one as well) was a prolific French poster artist who for many years served as the in-house artist for the printer Charles Verneau.
La Menthe-Pastille was first produced in 1885 by pharmacist Emile Giffard and is still produced today.
This poster will start many impromptu, likely hilarious, conversations about advertising, world leadership, history and … La Menthe-Pastille! It deserves a prominent place on your wall.