In other instances — as had been done for centuries — allegorical compositions served to illustrate elaborate ideas: the victory of the Revolution over its enemies, or the advent of a new political and social order. It was a traditional practice to resort to allegory to comment on real situations, an aspect of the visual culture of the time which can be particularly difficult to understand today.

Allegorical composition: Courteille's painting

Louis XVI


Portraits, on the other hand, constitute a category of images which can easily be comprehended, even though many of the celebrities of the Revolutionary period have become unfamiliar. The king, Louis XVI, is probably the individual most represented during the period. He is given a variety of roles, depending on the moment and the politics of the image.


Dignified monarch, paternal leader, calculating enemy, manipulated fool, saintly martyr — every phase of the king's turbulent last years is evoked through the prints. Everyone was keen to discover the faces of those whose names appeared in the press. Several editors published collections of engraved portraits of the deputies to the National Assembly.

Representation of Louis XVI

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