Program for Ubu roi

Jarry was the only playwright at the Œuvre to illustrate his own program (though uncredited, he also served as Ubu roi’s director and conceived its costumes and sets). His unusual design placed the actors’ names sideways, emphasizing the list of characters’ names instead. This is one of Jarry’s few depictions of Ubu without a spiral on his belly or a toilet-brush scepter in his hand. His distorted, mechanical arm holds a bag of money; the other bears a flaming candle or torch similar to the one held by the central figure in Rousseau’s painting La guerre.

Jarry’s addition of a leaf atop Ubu’s head would have been recognizable as an allusion to caricatures of Louis-Philippe I as a pear. The audience may have struggled to make sense of the burning house and the spheric creature, however. The kneeling men at the bottom left were copied from a late medieval woodcut Jarry had appropriated previously for his book César-antechrist.

Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), program for Ubu roi, 1896, lithograph. Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University. Museum Purchase. Photography by Peter Jacobs