Cartoons have long been a tool to protest against political regimes that use censored language. In the 1830s, a group of French cartoonists led by Charles Philippeon used the image of a pear to criticize the corrupt and repressive policies of King Louis Philippe. Pear has several meanings in French culture; First, the emphasis is on pear fruit. Second, it means an idiot and finally it has a pear shape with a small head and a very large bottom, which means a small brain but big jaws and mouth, which shows that it is talkative and lacks intelligence.
The work on the pear reaches the point where the French writer and critic Charles Baudelaire says: “A large group of patriots stood together around this damned cruel pear. There was such incredible anger and unity and a stubborn demand for justice that today, when we turn the pages of old comic magazines, we realize that such a relentless war could have continued for years, and these events are a great surprise.”
Source: Charles Baudelaire, "Some French Caricaturists", 1857
The most famous pear painting is undoubtedly "Past, Present, Future" by the French painter and caricaturist Honoré Daumier, which depicts the head of a Louis Philippe pear in three positions, its top knot defining the stem of the fruit. The commentary (probably written by Philippon himself) notes: "What was in the beginning: fresh and confident; what is now: pale, thin and anxious; what will be: despondent and broken. Everyone can confirm the authenticity of the present and the past. Do not doubt."
To see a gallery of caricatures made by French caricaturists during the reign of King Louis Philippe, please click here.
Masoud Shojaei Tabatabai