A Look at the Helfand Collection, Part II

Inspired by “Health for Sale,” the Philadelphia Museum of Art show featuring prints and posters donated by Dr. William Helfand, on Tuesday we started examining one of the images from CHF’s own Helfand Collection. The cartoon below may refresh your memory, but if not click here.

Print from La Caricature, 1831. Gift of William Helfand, CHF Collections.

We’ve identified the sheep as a reference to General Georges Mouton. In 1831, the year the print is dated, Mouton commanded the French National Guard. This explains the uniformed sheep, each one a mini-Mouton. Also in 1831, Louis Philippe was elected monarch. The working classes, unhappy with his deceptions, rioted.

It fell to Mouton to put down the riots. Rather firing into the crowds, Mouton made what he no doubt considered a humane decision: use fire-hoses to break up the demonstrations. Perhaps the elephant squirting water from its trunk now makes a little more sense. The fire-hose decision became Mouton's defining moment in the minds of the Republican press. His symbol became the clyster syringe, which you can see tucked at the elephant’s waist. Invariably a caricature of Mouton would present him using a clyster, or with a clyster hanging from his belt. In one memorable image, he sits astride a giant clyster.

The jeering crowd and the title itself deliver a warning to the new “citizen-king:” Spit into the wind, and your nose will get wet. It would be seventeen years before the prediction came true, but in the revolutionary year of 1848, Louis Philippe’s nose got soaking wet.

Andrew Mangravite is Archivist at CHF’s Othmer Library of Chemical History.

A Look at the Helfand Collection [Periodic Tabloid]
Health for Sale [Philadelphia Museum of Art]

Posted In: History

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