Below you can browse through a list of 245 images included in Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. The largest number are political cartoons. But we also include paintings and images of artifacts such as fans and buttons. The images are drawn from many repositories, but particularly from the Museum of the French Revolution in Vizille in southwest France and Olin Library at Cornell University. An essay on how to read images provides useful background. You can search for particular documents by keyword or topic on the search page.
There are 245 matching records.
"Celebrating Napoleons Birthday on the Island of St. Helena"
In this cartoon, Napoleon is portrayed as a buffoon, riding a goat in a charge against rodents, mocking his warlike instincts.
"His Monument": Napoleons Past and Future Are Filled with Dead Bodies
This Januslike figuration of Napoleon haunts the viewer as it suggests a future filled with skulls. Indeed, the unprecedented deaths from war and conquest of the last two centuries make this image seem predictive.
"The Exorcism": Ridding France of the Devil Napoleon
The seal in the foreground, with its fleurdelys, indicates a return to royalism after Frances liberation from Napoleon. In addition, the secularism associated with the Revolution is countered with the images reference to the religious practice of exorcism.
"The Great Heroism of the Nineteenth Century"
As in other caricatures, foreigners tried to humiliate Napoleon, once again using mice to represent those who would now attend him.
"The Great Man"
German cartoonists tried to reduce Napoleon down to size, in this case, the size of mice! Here the mice serve as courtiers.
"The Little Cartesian Devil": German Peasants Capturing the Little Devil Napoleon
The reversal of circumstances that German cartoonists emphasized seemed generally to exercise considerable sway over this use of symbols. Here, Napoleon, who strode so large over Europe, is bottled and examined. Obsessed with his small stature, Napoleon might have been particularly displeased with this image.
"The Song of the End": the Whole World Now Chases Him
Where Napoleon was once the conqueror, the world now avenges itself. This sense of reversal, felt widely outside of France, characterized a number of the caricatures of Napoleon, and indeed of the entire Revolution.
"This Is My Dear Son": Napoleon as Child of the Devil
Linking Napoleon with Hell represents a far cry from his own propaganda.
10 August 1792
This print shows the attack on the Tuileries Palace, which housed the royal family. Although the place was welldefended, many troops simply defected. When the artillery quit, the King and his family hastened across to the nearby meeting hall of the Legislative Assembly for protection. But the battle continued when a number of the defendersparticularly the Swiss guardresisted. A fullscale engagement ensued with some 600 Swiss killed and about double the number of insurgents dead. Casualties notwithstanding, the attackers won. The victory sealed the demise of the monarchy and ensured that it would be replaced by a republic.
20 June 1791, Anonymous Drawing
In this depiction of the Kings arrest, the Queen risks her body to save her son, the crown prince.
A Democrat, or Reason and Philosophy
This cartoon by the popular British caricaturist James Gillray depicts the British politician Charles James Fox as a sansculotte. Wearing a cockade in his wig and a bandage on his forehead, the unshaven Fox raises his bloody left hand as he lifts his left leg to break wind. Notice his torn shirt, the bloody dagger in his belt, and the fact that he wears no pants. He sings the popular revolutionary song, "Ça ira!" ["Itll be okay."]
A Foreign Tree
These painted engravings ridicule the unrest wrought by French revolutionaries by contrasting French subversion with British stability. The "British Liberty Tree" (depicted in the preceding image) is assigned to the mock Latin genus of "Stabilissimus," while the more sickly looking "Foreign Tree" in this image is put in the genus "Subitarius." Notice in the background of the latter, a guillotine, symbol of all that is wrong with France.
A French Gentleman of the Court of Louis XVI. A French Gentleman of the Court of Egalité, 1799
A sarcastic treatment from England of French manners that contrasts the weakness of the old regime with revolutionary arrogance. The engraver also seems to be pointing toward two entirely different views of masculinity.
A Grateful France Proclaims Napoleon the First Emperor of the French
In this engraving, Roman and contemporary themes are combined to glorify the new emperor. The absence of any clear representation of revolutionary liberty shows Napoleon moving away from the events of the preceding decade.
A Positive View?
This composition of the scene, in which a helpless Louis seems to be looking upward to heaven with his confessor, communicates humility. The executioners are relatively passive, leaving the King and confessor center stage. This reveals that in mortal death, the King had a chance to look better than his tormentors. Although this print was undoubtedly produced significantly after the fact, contemporary spectators also might have felt this moment of moral superiority available to the victim. As sentimentality became more prevalent in the eighteenth century, sympathy for the accused on the scaffold had grown, so that authorities had increasingly taken executions out of the public eye. Perhaps, it is likely that Louis at least realized a measure of this same concern. And possibly Sansons exuberance after the execution when he eagerly held aloft the Kings head, as well as a prior decision to call for a drum roll to drown out the Kings attempts to address the crowd, were meant to erase any empathy for his condition.
A Second Joan of Arc
To those who considered Marat insincere and dangerous in his unrelenting populism, the true martyr was Charlotte Corday, who had come to Paris from Caena city then serving as a base for the federalist insurgencyapparently with the express intent of killing Marat. In this engraving by the English caricaturist Cruikshank, Corday is depicted as "A Second Joan of Arc," saving her country by ridding it of oppressive rulers.
A Ship Named after Lafayette
A twentieth century ship reminds voyagers of a revolutionary past.
Abstention Rate in Napoleonic Plebiscites
All regions of France did not support Napoleon equally. His rule aroused most enthusiasm in the east (a prerevolutionary border region crucial in the Napoleonic wars) and the center of the country, least in the west, which had long provided a home to royalist counterrevolution.
Abstension rate in Napoleonic plebiscites (shaded areas = those where the abstention rate exceeded 80 percent)
Abuses to Suppress
This print depicts the Third Estaterepresented by the peasant at the rear of the chariot, the worker leading the horse, and the merchant drivingdelivering to the National Assembly a petition listing "abuses" to be remedied.
Act of Justice
Here Robespierres death is depicted as divine retribution, as in a classical myth. Numerous heads, presumably of those who had perished at the guillotine, watch two male figures (bearing a strong resemblance to Hercules, who had been an early symbol of the Revolution) carry the freshly severed heads of Robespierre and his followers toward the mythological river Styx, guarded by the threeheaded dog Cerberus.
Active Citizen/Passive Citizen
This cartoon mocks the distinction between active and passive citizens. Many revolutionaries hated this difference, essentially dividing those with property from those without. The propertied (active) were the only ones who could participate in the political process.
Ah! Monsignor! It seems that they want us to give everything back, yet while in the game I had advised you to play trumps.
Not uncommonly, revolutionary prints invoked excretory humor directed toward those priests who would not swear allegiance to the Revolution. Revolutionaries eliminated on their enemies; the latter might also receive enemas. Of course, in a world of chamber pots everyone got the message loudly and clearly.
Allegory of Truth
Female revolutionary figures stood for all kinds of qualities and virtues, in this case, "Truth." Women figures appeared so prominently in paintings and engravings because French nouns for the qualities and virtues were usually feminine (Truth = La Vérité). In other words, paintings such as this one did not represent real women; they used allegorical figures to make a more abstract point.
An Emblematical View of the Constitutions of England and France
Similar to the two engravings of trees, this engraving contrasts English order with French anarchy. On the left, a lion (representing England) sits at the foot of a chiseled rock, part of which is labeled "Unanimity." A crown appears over the rock; a unicorn lies behind it. To the right, a multiheaded serpent representing France writhes around a broken flag reading "Anarchy."
An Example of Heroic Courage
In this rendition of an incident from the Vendée rebellion, an ordinary woman is shown standing up to the rebels. It comes from a series of heroic images of the Revolution and shows that women could be heroines for the Republic.
An Exuberant Executioner
As 80,000 crowded into the square to watch the execution of Louis XVI, they cannot have been unaware that the guillotine sat where a statue of Louis XV had been. Here Sanson, the executioner, snatches the detached head of Louis XVI to show to the crowd. He leans forward with approving eagerness. If the head of the King was the most recognizable old regime symbol, then the demise of that symbolic system becomes now complete. Waving on a pike, facing the King, is a Phrygian cap, now no longer placed on his head, as in other prints. In this way the engraver indicates a final severance of a complicated compromise.
An Ordinary Guillotine
The guillotine was first introduced as a humane, efficient, and above all modern form of execution in April 1792; during the radical phase of the Republic, it would become the symbol of the Terror. This engraving suggests the guillotine is providing "good support for liberty."
Aristocratic Occupations . . .
The second image, a color drawing by the popular English caricaturist James Gillray in 1805 during the Empire, takes a different view of the Directory, suggesting that it is a time of moral decadence and selfaggrandizement. It depicts Paul Barras, while in power as a member of the fiveman executive Directory in 1797, being entertained by the naked dancing of two wives of prominent men, the former Jacobin deputy JeanLouis Tallien and Bonaparte. Madame Tallien appears beautiful, tall, and elegant, while Josephine de Beauharnais, Bonapartes future wife, appears small, thin, and with bad teeth. According to the text, Barras chose Madame Tallien (taking the mans wife just as he usurped the mans political power), while Bonaparte (seen watching from behind a curtain) eagerly accepted the less attractive woman so he could advance his political career.
Army of Jugs
This color drawing, produced in 1793 at the request of the Committee of Public Safety and then published as an engraving, caricatures the British army and its king, George III, as incompetent, who, despite fine uniforms, cannot defeat shoddily clad, yet energetic sansculottes (on the left), who humiliate the British by defecating on the advancing troops. The British vainly try to respond with cannons in the shape of clysters, medical devices used to administer enemas. The key below indicates the particular British figures, notably Charles James Fox and George III, being satirized.
Arrest of Louis Capet at Varennes, June 22, 1791
This print shows an angry crowd of fervent revolutionaries breaking down doors to arrest the King.