The International Museum of the Reformation recently presented an exposition on Wolfgang-Adam Töpffer, a painter whose fierce depictions served as early examples of the power of images and the social function of caricature.
Töpffer (1766-1847) came of age during the French Revolution and drew his inspiration from English caricaturists who were very popular in the second half of the 18th century for their commentaries on morality and religion.
The new genre particularly resonated in Geneva, which was experiencing a time of political clashes between supporters of revolutionary ideas and the Restoration as well as between the rejection of French rule and entry into the Swiss Confederation in 1815.
Töpffer attacked the human comedy of his time with humour, but he did so in hiding, lacking a sufficiently courageous editor. As the inventor of the satiric image, his work is considered a forerunner of the cartoon.