You are what you do: A quirky composite portrait of tradespeople and their tools

History: You are what you do – olden times  tradespeople and their tools

Hieroglyphics, circa 1800

This delightful print entitled Hieroglyphics dates from circa 1800 and was created by the London-based publisher Samuel William Fores in the aquatint style. We can see the composite portraits of four professions: a florist, writer, musician, and barber — their features made up entirely from the tools of their trades. Such composite portraits, in which human figures are comprised completely of objects, were pioneered several centuries earlier by the 16th-century Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

You are what you do: A quirky composite portrait of tradespeople and their tools


Nicolas de Larmessin: The Dance of Work: Satires and Grotesques of the Professions, circa 1700.

Although we should also mention Nicolas de Larmessin and his series depicting tradesmen clad in outfits comprised of their related objects.


Prominent French artist Nicolas de Larmessin (1640-1725) was prolific in his mission to capture 100 or more professions in this quirky way with his series ‘Habits des métiers et professions’. Nicolas came from a long line of the de Larmessin (also L’Armessin) family. A clan of well-known engravers and printers during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Some of the alphabet of professions treated by de Larmessin include:

  • Baker, (Boulanger)
  • Basket maker (Vannier)
  • Blacksmith (Ma Brick Mason (Masson)
  • Butcher (Boucher)
  • Chef (Cuisinier)
  • Chest and Box maker (Malletier-Coffretier)
  • Clock maker (Corlogeur)
  • Clothes seller (Fripier)
  • Coffee merchant (Caffetier)
  • Comb and brush seller (Peigné)
  • Comedian (Comédien)
  • Dairy & cheese maker (Laitier)
  • Farm laborer (Labourer)
  • Fisherman (Pescheur)
  • Furier (Foureur)
  • Gardener (Jardinier)
  • Hat maker (Chapellier)

  • Hosier (Bonnetier)
  • Knife and Sissor Sharpener (Remouleur)
  • Locksmith (Serrurier)
  • Leather worker (Ceinturier)
  • Miller (Meusnier)
  • Money changer (Monnoyer)
  • Maker of table games (Tabletier)
  • Perfume maker/seller (Parfumeur)
  • Playing Card printer (Cartier)
  • Plume and feather seller (Plumassier)
  • Plumber (Plombier)
  • Printer (Imprimeur), reschal)
  • Saddle maker (Sellier)
  • Second-hand Shoe maker (Sauetier)
  • Tailor (Tailleur)
  • Wheel wright (Charron)
  • Wild Game chef/seller (Rotisseur)
  • Wild Game chef/seller (Rotisseur)
  • Wine merchant (Cabaretier)
  • Wine maker (Vigneron).

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