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Hell or paradise: the sources of caricature


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Prepare your visit Ticketing Future event Ferdinand Hodler, L’Unanimité © Musée d'art et d'histoire de Genève, photo: Y. Siza

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Caricature intended to ridicule certain defects of the Church has existed for centuries: the Middle Ages, with its taste for the monstrous, gave famous examples, particularly in illuminated manuscripts.

If these images were, most of the time, intended to make people laugh or smile, these satirical features took an increasingly humiliating, hurtful and even devastating turn at the time of the religious wars which set Europe on fire and blood in the 16th century. Engravings, loose sheets, medals, objects of all kinds serve as a support for satire that is sometimes crude, aggressive, even scatological, exciting the violent struggles that break out on all sides.

The exhibition Hell or Paradise: the sources of caricature (16th-18th centuries) will allow you to discover these objects coming from Geneva, Switzerland and all over Europe, some of which will be exhibited to the public for the first time, through an astonishing journey that will take you from hell… to paradise!

After an introduction devoted to satire in the Middle Ages, you will pass through different rooms which will familiarize you with the language used by both camps, Catholics and Protestants, to prove the superiority of their doctrines. The first part will present the image as both a weapon and a target, addressing the questions of its worship and its destruction. The second part will show how Protestant propaganda calls into question the foundations of Catholicism.

The third part will touch on the modern meaning of caricature since we will now be able to recognize the ridiculed characters. The exhibition ends with calls for religious reconciliation such as could be found at the beginning of the 18th century. In line with a museum which attractively presents a history capable of illuminating the present, this exhibition will allow us to understand essential issues, at a time when, through resurgences that we thought were outdated, religious and political conflicts are taking place. found linked to new satirical essays in images.


The temporary exhibition Hell or Paradise: the sources of caricature (16th-18th centuries) was made possible thanks to the generous support of the following organizations, foundations and private donors.

May they be warmly thanked.

  • Hans Wilsdorf Foundation
  • French-speaking Lottery
  • Department of Culture and Sport of the City of Geneva
  • Banque Pictet & Cie Charitable Foundation
  • Pro Helvetia
  • Sandoz – Family Foundation
  • Republic and Canton of Geneva
  • Reformation House
  • ProFutura Foundation
  • Harsch Fine Arts
  • Devillard
  • Foundation for Aid to Protestantism
  • Jean-Frédéric DufourBory & Cie SA, Geneva
  • Gabrielle Chaponniere

Youth and family activities are sponsored by Le Panetier, Caran d’Ache and Apec Diffusion.

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