Hygiene for all

Hygiene for all

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Title: Medicine for everyone (Or hygienic advice [sic])

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 45.7 - Width 35.3

Technique and other indications: Lithograph enhanced with stencil Printing Gangel

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Magesite web

Picture reference: 05-526364 / 38.6.92D

Medicine for everyone (Or hygienic advice [sic])

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Mage

Publication date: April 2011

Historical context

Popular imagery and the struggle for hygiene

From the second half of the XIXe century, the question of hygiene interests French society more and more. Together, the progress of medicine, the emergence of hygienic trends and the establishment of public health policies concerning both town planning and care or prevention place it more and more at the heart of concerns and representations.

In this hygiene awareness among the French, a great role is played by the "popular imagery" of lithographs printed in large numbers (in newspapers, almanacs, in the form of posters or advertising cards). In this area, as in so many others, these printed matter help to shape the consciousness and determine the practices of a growing part of the population.

In this regard, Medicine for everyone is paradigmatic. Published between 1852 and 1858, it translates, accompanies and promotes a message of prevention addressed to all, a perfect expression of the context previously mentioned as well as the political and social wishes of the "new" era.

Image Analysis

Hygiene advice in pictures

Made and printed in Metz, in the workshops of the famous Gangel house, Medicine for everyone (Or hygienic advice [sic]) presents all aspects of the widely used "popular" lithography of the time. The lines are simple and tend to caricature (see the faces of the characters). Bright and varied, the colors easily attract attention.

This document presents seventeen small humorous sketches, divided into five horizontal rows. Widely used in prints of the period, each of these images is accompanied by a short text (instructions or descriptions) sharing "hygienic advice" easily applicable to various situations of daily life.

The influence of the farce is visible in the situations, costumes and expressions, as in a certain rawness. We also note the diversity of places (indoors, outdoors, at work, at home), social classes (peasants, workers, bourgeois) and characters (presence of "Turks" and blacks, women, men and women. 'children).


A pedagogy for all

Medicine for everyone (Or hygienic advice) presents itself as an attempt at “democratic” pedagogy. The variety of motifs suggests a universalist aim recalled by the title: this advice should apply to everyone, whatever the condition, activity, place of life or work of people. This sort of equality in the matter of hygiene is likely to appeal to the privileged recipients of lithography.

Indeed, the latter is clearly aimed at the most humble populations, by choosing the humorous and burlesque reference to convey hygienic rules in a simple way. Hygiene is not an austere science, but it involves very concrete and common sense practices. Attached to medicine since it promotes health, it does not depend on doctors, whom we are still suspicious of in these circles since, precisely, the theatrical pranks and Molière. Accessible to all, it must gradually integrate consciousness and be the subject of new practices on a daily basis.

  • hygiene
  • popular imagery
  • disease
  • medicine


Alain CORBIN [ed.], History of the body, vol. II “From the Revolution to the Great War”, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “L'Univers historique”, 2005.Didier NOURRISSON, “Introduction” in Health education. XIXth-XXth century, Rennes, National School of Public Health (coll. “Recherche, santé, social.Histoire”, 2002.Georges VIGARELLO, History of health practices. The healthy and the unhealthy since the Middle Ages, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire", 1999.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Hygiene for all"

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