Une image d'Epinal
When you’re told that you're providing une image d'Epinal - an Épinal print - it means you only show the good side of things, in a somewhat naive and reductive way. An image d'Épinal is equivalent to a rose-colored cliché, an idealized view, a white-washed image.
What is it about Epinal? you might ask. Épinal is neither a painter nor a draftsman. It is a small town nestled in the hollow of the Vosges region in Eastern France. Épinal prints were prints on popular subjects rendered in bright sharp colours, sold in France in the 19th century.
In 1796, Epinal resident Jean-Charles Pellerin created a printing press capable of producing large series of brightly colored images.
Épinal was a good location for business. Beside the Moselle river and the forests that enabled the manufacture of paper, there were many artisan playing-card and printed-paper makers, which allowed Pellerin to very quickly expand his business into an successful industry well known in France and beyond.
In support of Emperor Napoleon, Pellerin started his career by printing flattering images of the imperial family, as well as victorious scenes of battles. As a result, he soon obtained the coveted "printer's patent" from Napoleon. From then on, he quickly expanded and innovated. These images were true tools of information, but also of propaganda, and their peddling throughout France and Europe enabled people to follow the "embellished" adventures of the French Emperor, protagonist of these prints, accessible to all.
The representations of the emperor were gradually replaced with illustrations for children's books or riddles, much appreciated by the population. These prints depicted scenes or characters that were pleasing to the eye and, above all, optimistic and joyful.
These types of pictures had been very popular since the 15th century, particularly in the uneducated layers of society. Until then, however, they'd been made by hand and in small quantities. With Pellerin's improved technologies, they were able to reach a much wider audience. Often accompanied by expository texts, Épinal prints may be regarded as the beginning of comic books and comic strips.
The expression une image d'Épinal has become proverbial and refers to an embellished - and usually traditionalist - depiction of a scene. By extension and figuratively, it is also used today as a synonym for a widespread commonplace, a stereotype.
La réalité est loin de cette image d'Epinal que vous décrivez!
Reality is far from this idealized picture you're providing!
Ce village est ravissant avec ses ruelles pavées! Une vraie image d'Epinal!
This town is so quaint with its small cobbled streets! A real postcard picture!
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