A jester representing the disinfectant Papier d'Arménie scourges figures representing the infectious diseases cholera, typhoid, diphtheria and smallpox. Colour lithograph by A. Van Geleyn, ca. 1890.
- Van Geleyn, A., active approximately 1858-1900?
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Credit: A jester representing the disinfectant Papier d'Arménie scourges figures representing the infectious diseases cholera, typhoid, diphtheria and smallpox. Colour lithograph by A. Van Geleyn, ca. 1890. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
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About this work
The jester stands on the embankment wall of the Seine and, holding a shield inscribed "Papier d'Arménie", raises a cat o' nine tails at a fleeing group of wild-haired allegorical figures in mediaeval dress. They breathe out white clouds of miasma representing infectious diseases: "variole" (smallpox, a woman who is being clutched by a skeleton with a scythe), "choléra", "typhoïde", "croup" (diphtheria represented by a man with membranous wings who seizes a baby) Papier d'Arménie was produced and sold in Paris by Auguste Ponsot in the 1880s and 1890s. The scented paper was supplied with a burner which could be held by hand: when the paper was lit, smoke emerged which was advertised as disinfecting the air in the room. It was especially recommended for hotel rooms (to eliminate germs left behind by previous occupants), sickrooms, and any rooms in times of epidemics. It is still manufactured today (2004), in Montrouge outside Paris, and the main ingredient is said to be benzoin gum extracted from the benjamin-tree of Java In the background, in darkness, are the Hôtel-Dieu (hospital and medical school) and Notre Dame (cathedral), represented as being mired in mediaeval obscurantism
[Paris?] : [s.n], [1890?] (Paris (7 Rue Jules César) : J. Bognard)
1 print : lithograph, printed in colours ; sheet 130 x 93.5 cm
Papier d'Arménie. Hygiénique désinfectant. Dans toutes les parfumeries et pharmacies. Depot: Denis, 39 rue Des Champs, Rouen. A. Van Geleyn
M. Robert-Sterkendries, La santé s'affiche, Bruxelles: Therabel, 2003, no. 403, p. 211
Wellcome Library no. 549316i