This photo is shared all over the internet with a description suggesting that this is 23 month old François Bertillon his mugshot after being caught nibbling ALL the pears from a basket.
The picture is not what it seems.
Although countless children were indeed arrested for all kinds of crimes, including petty ones, this child was not.
The photo was taken by Alphonse Bertillon, the French police officer and inventor of the (modern) Mugshot.
Alarm bells should start ringing by now.
The inventor of the mugshot takes a picture of a child with the same last name as he has?
What are the odds?
And there are other photos of the same child and other pictures of the Bertillon family?
Is this some sick crime family that has toddlers involved in their heinous acts but only one of the family members is a police officer who is then forced to photograph his family members as they get arrested?
No, of course not.
François is not just a kid with the same name as the man who took the photo, they are related, he is his nephew.
Often it is mentioned or assumed that François is Alphonse’s son, but he’s not.
To find out what the exact situation in this family was I had to do a lot of research but eventually a French language biography written by Alphonse’s niece Suzanne gave me the information I needed.
According to the family written biography Alphonse and his wife Amélie never had children, but his brother Jacques had two daughters and his other brother Georges had a son called François.
Alphonse and Amélie loved and spoiled their nephew and nieces.
During my research I also found this photo described as “Presumed Portrait of George and François Bertillon, 1891”.
The Bertillon story is rather interesting, they were involved in many exciting situations, included some very inspirational women and is full of twists and turns.
François seems to have had a wonderful childhood in a great family, the last information I have about him is that he was a soldier during the First World War.
I will try and find out more, I hope he survived.
So in stead of this being the heart breaking and horrible situation of the inventor of the mugshot being forced to photograph his own son for nibbling pears… it is actually just a bit of a joke photo with his little nephew.
The whole family seems to have ended up in their mugshot gallery sooner or later, mostly just for fun but perhaps also to help uncle Alphonse with his continuing development and improvement of his new idea for mugshots.
So, in short;
Not a mugshot of a poor little kid being arrested for nibbling pears but just a fun or experimental photo taken by uncle (very likely not father, as is often claimed) Alphonse.
Vie d’Alphonse Bertillon (1941) by Suzanne Bertillon
Prophets and patrons, the French university and the emergence of the social sciences, T.N. Clark
The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection By Thomas & Dorothy Hooble
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