Wednesday, July 07, 2004
When It All Goes Pear-Shaped, Part 2 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
An update on the pear-shaped debate: Jason Kuznicki mentioned a famous French Revolution caricature of "citizen king" Louis-Phillipe. You can see examples of this caricature on University of Tennessee Prof. Robert Glenn's page on "Symbols". Scroll a bit down that page to view the 1832 Charles Philipon caricature, "Les Poires," and a second from the same year by Honoré Daumier depicting Louis-Phillipe as a literal giant pear, "hoisted up" by the people, but liable to splat onto the stone floor into a fruity mess at their whim as well.

This May, the Courtauld Institute of Art featured an entire lecture on the politically-subversive symbolism of the pear:
"Going Pear-Shaped: Louis-Philippe and Graphic Satire, 1830-1835"

Lecture by Jim Cuno, Director and Märit Rausing Professor of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Thursday 13 May 2004 6.30-7.30pm

During the first years of the July Monarchy in France, the new King, Louis-Philippe, was subjected to constant and increasingly bitter caricature in the newly powerful and popular press. Honoré Daumier, among other artists, poked fun at the compromised, "bourgeois" Monarch, often drawing on popular humour of what could only be described as a discourteous kind. As physical threats to the life of the King increased by 1835 and grew more aggressive, and the caricatures lampooning, the King and his government passed the September laws of 1835 forbidding caricatures of the King. This was the end of the very popular and effective satire of the king as a "pear."

This lecture will explore the meaning of the pear image, and the possible reasons why it was so offensive to the King as to have been outlawed within four years of its appearance.

Tickets £7.50 per person inclusive a glass of wine.
Place: Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, Courtauld Institute of Art
Pear wine, perhaps? ABC Classic FM Word of the Day writer Kel Richards says the term recently appeared in dialogue on the popular British police drama, The Bill, but I haven't yet found a teleplay script mentioning "pear-shaped." That's for another day.

However, the current usage expansion of the term "pear-shaped" is rather recent: UX2 tips us to the Urban Dictionary's page defining pear-shaped, and only two mentions have been posted - both since January of 2004. "Pear-shaped" could be the new shit hitting the fan, and the new handbasket to Hell.