Brian May and Denis Pellerin at Hay Fesitval


Brian May and Denis Pellerin were speakers at The Hay Festival, Hay On Wye yesterday (23 May), talking about their book “Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures In Hell”. Brian and Denis did a live radio interview on the day with Wynne Evans of BBC Radio Wales at 3:05pm. Now on Youtube.

Brian May & Denis Pellerin Interview Hay Festival BBC Radio Wales 23 May 2014

Full House of 400 at Diableries talk, Hay Festival
A full house of 400 people captivated by Brian May’s 3D Diableries event. Photo: Carlton Books


23 May 2014

Brian May is famous for playing guitar in Queen, as well as saving badgers; not for collecting small, French, stereoscopic images of Hell from antiques dealers on the Portobello Road. These little silhouettes of one or many dead men are called diableries, or ‘devilments’. They depict raucous scenes of Hell, complete with dancing devils, skating skeletons, satyrs and martyrs – all captured on stereo card, the Victorian answer to 3D.

Known also as ‘French Tissues’, the cards were made by sculptors Pierre Adolph Hennetier and Louis Alfred Habert between 1860 and 1874. Starting off with meticulous clay dioramas and transposing them onto card, the sculptors would then prick the characters’ eyes out and fill them with a devilish red gel. Using a stereoscope, the viewer could peer through and witness scenes of Hennetier and Habert’s inferno in vivid, terrifying detail.

So, too, May’s audience, bedecked in red and green spectacles like a congregation of spellbound beetles, stared in amazement as these ancient skeletons danced to life on the big screen: bizarre, freakish, yet oddly relatable and humorous. What is it about our own world that is captured so elegantly by these infernal creations?

The collections are showcased in Brian May, Denis Pellerin and Paula Fleming’s ‘Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell’ – Amazon