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Focus on : Paris during the Revolution

The French Revolution

The most important collection in the world relating to the French Revolution is kept by the Musée Carnavalet. 

2 museums
35 works
Period
Epoque contemporaine (1790 à nos jours)Révolution française (1789-1799)
Century
18e siècle19e siècle4e quart du 18e siècle
Object category
Arts graphiquesCéramiqueDessinEstampeMaquetteMobilierPeintureRévolution françaiseSculptureVêtements et accessoires de vêtement

By the 1780s, the concept of absolute monarchy, long criticised by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, had run out of steam. Many French people, especially in the working-class areas of Paris, were jobless victims of famine and scarcity. No longer willing to tolerate the lack of equality, they revolted. The regime was unable to meet the people’s expectations for reform and was, in addition, destabilised by the financial crisis and the national debt. The king had no choice but to convene the Estates General, which opened on 5 May 1789. This was their first meeting since 1614 and the representatives of the three Estates of the realm (the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners, or Third Estate) wrote up the grievances of their electors in what became known as cahiers de doléances (lists of grievances). The Revolution had not yet begun. The French loved their king and trusted him to put an end to the abuses of the most privileged members of society. But in Versailles, the deputies were unable to reach an agreement. After a long month of quarrels, on 17 June 1789, the Third Estate, joined by a few members of the clergy and aristocracy, decided to set themselves up as the newly christened National Assembly (Assemblée nationale). Since they claimed to represent the sovereignty of the people, this move by the deputies of 1789 was the first truly revolutionary act. Absolute monarchy was now a thing of the past.

The estates general, 1789

A society of orders

Just before the Revolution, France had a population of some 28 millions, divided up into three "orders" or "estates" according to levels of prestige. Praying for the king, and fighting for him, were considered more honourable activities than merely working. This is why the clergy made up the First Estate,  the nobility, whose duties were military, constituted the Second. But 98% of France's inhabitants – the bourgeoisie, the tradesmen and manual workers of the cities, and peasants – belonged to the Third Estate.

This anonymous image from 1789 shows an old peasant, representing the Third Estate, being ground down by a member of the clergy wearing a cross, and a nobleman wearing a sword. The cartoon symbolizes the tax burden which, under the Ancien Régime (the Old Regime), was almost entirely borne by the people. The image denounces a double inequality: the poorest were also the most heavily taxed. In the late 18th century the gap between rich and poor was widening and this caused many protests. As the cartoon's caption indicates, the common people were hoping that change was not far off.

This kind of portrayal of the three estates circulated widely at the time, in many different forms.

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Révolution française. Ancien Régime. Caricature sur les Trois-Ordres : Le Tiers-Etat portant sur son dos le Clergé et la Noblesse. 1789.
Anonyme. "Révolution française. Ancien Régime. Caricature sur les Trois-Ordres© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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"A faut espérer qeu se jeu la finira bentot". Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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"A faut espérer qeu se jeu la finira bentot". Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Others visuals (3)
Révolution française. Ancien Régime. Caricature sur les Trois-Ordres : Le Tiers-Etat portant sur son dos le Clergé et la Noblesse. 1789.
Anonyme
Datation
En 1789
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Révolution française. Ancien Régime. Caricature sur les Trois-Ordres : Le Tiers-Etat portant sur son dos le Clergé et la Noblesse. 1789.

Anonyme
En 1789
Estampe, Arts graphiques, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Saladier aux trois ordres inscrit inscrit "LA LOI / ET / LE ROY"
Anonyme. Saladier aux trois ordres. Faïence. 1790-1792. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Carole Rabourdin / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Other visual (1)
Saladier aux trois ordres inscrit inscrit "LA LOI / ET / LE ROY"
Anonyme
Datation
Fin 1789
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Saladier aux trois ordres inscrit inscrit "LA LOI / ET / LE ROY"

Anonyme
Fin 1789
Céramique, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Pichet aux trois ordres
Anonyme. Pichet aux trois ordres. Faïence. 1790. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Françoise Cochennec / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Other visual (1)
Pichet aux trois ordres
Anonyme
Datation
En 1790
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Pichet aux trois ordres

Anonyme
En 1790
Céramique, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

The tennis court oath

On June 20th 1789, at Versailles, the deputies elected by the Third Estate, accompanied by a few representatives of the nobility and the clergy, assembled at the Jeu de Paume indoor tennis court: the king had forbidden them the use of the chamber where they usually met. Together the deputies swore an oath not to separate until they had drawn up a Constitution for the kingdom. Their aim was a transition from an absolute monarchy, in which all power was held by the king, to a constitutional one, in which royal power would be limited by the Constitution.

To celebrate the Tennis Court Oath, the National Assembly – the name adopted by the "Etats Généraux" after June 1789 – commissioned a painting from Jacques-Louis David. What we see here is a preliminary sketch.

In the centre, future Paris mayor Jean-Sylvain Bailly is reading out the oath. The deputies are grouped together on the other side of an imaginary line, as if on a theatre stage: so as we look at the picture we have the impression of witnessing the event. This theatrical presentation is accentuated by the raised arms of the deputies as they swear the oath. Among them we recognise Robespierre, Mirabeau, Abbé Grégoire and Barnave. Seated to the right, Joseph Martin-Dauch, the only deputy who refused to take the oath, has his arms folded as a sign of protest. In the centre-foreground two representatives of the Catholic Church and a Protestant pastor illustrate the rapprochement between Christians of different confessions and the support given by part of the clergy to the plan for a constitutional monarchy.

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Serment du Jeu de paume, le 20 juin 1789
Attribué à Jacques Louis David (1748-1825). "Le Serment du Jeu de Paume, le 20 juin 1789". Huile sur toile. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Attribué à Jacques Louis David (1748-1825). "Le Serment du Jeu de Paume, le 20 juin 1789". Huile sur toile. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Others visuals (2)
Serment du Jeu de paume, le 20 juin 1789
David, Jacques-Louis
Datation
Après 1791
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Serment du Jeu de paume, le 20 juin 1789

David, Jacques-Louis
Après 1791
Peinture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

In 1789, before the opening of the "Etats Généraux", the people of Paris were severely affected by a bad winter, a rise in the price of bread and increased unemployment.

In July, a concentration of foreign regiments around Versailles gave rise to rumours of an ‘aristocratic plot’ against the National Assembly. The demonstration organised in support of disgraced liberals Necker and the Duke of Orléans, which had begun on 12 July, turned into a vast insurrection. All around Paris, the toll gates had been burning for two days. On the 14, in search of weapons to protect the population, the rioters invaded the Invalides and then moved on to the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) where the Provost of the Merchants of Paris, Jacques de Flesselles, who was suspected of hiding weapons, was shot. Still lacking munitions, the insurgents hurried to the Bastille, which held the largest stock of gunpowder in Paris. There, the governor de Launay, and his soldiers attempted resistance. When he surrendered he too was assassinated. The storming of the Bastille resulted in the deaths of about a hundred people, providing the Revolution with its first martyrs.

During the attack, a municipal government was set up and Jean-Sylvain Bailly became the first mayor of Paris. Louis XVI abandoned attempts to quell the revolt and came to Paris on 17 July, where he agreed to receive the patriotic cockade and recognised the new Commune as well as the National Guard, the volunteer militia created on 14 July.

The storming of the Bastille, 1789

The Demolition of the Bastille

For Parisians the fortress of the Bastille, which had been turned into a prison, had become the symbol of absolute royal power: you could be imprisoned without trial by an order from the king. The prison was virtually empty on 14 July 1789, when the rebels seized it in search of weapons and ammunition.

That evening building contractor Pierre-François Palloy sent his workmen to demolish this symbol of absolutism. He organised tours of the worksite and began making souvenirs out of fragments of the fortress. Among them were many models like the one shown here, carved out of  blocks of stone from the former prison. Palloy sent these scale models out into France's 83 newly created départements. He also sent them to King Louis XVI and his ministers, and even to such foreign personages as George Washington, first president of the United States.

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La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)
Pierre François Palloy (1755-1835). "Modèle de la Bastille (taillé dans une pierre de la forteresse)". Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Stéphane Piera / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Pierre François Palloy (1755-1835). Modèle de la Bastille (taillé dans une pierre de la forteresse). Paris, musée Carnavalet. Photo© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Pierre François Palloy (1755-1835). Modèle de la Bastille (taillé dans une pierre de la forteresse). Paris, musée Carnavalet. Photo© Marie-Laure Berthier / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy. "La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy. "La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy. "La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Anonyme, sous la direction de l'entrepreneur Palloy."La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)". Pierre. 1789-1794. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Others visuals (26)
La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)
Anonyme
Datation
Entre 1789 et 1794
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

La Bastille (oeuvre exécutée dans un bloc de pierre provenant de la Bastille)

Anonyme, Palloy, Pierre-François, Palloy, Pierre-François
Entre 1789 et 1794
Sculpture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Serment des Enfans.
Jean-Baptiste Lesueur (1749-1826). "Serment des Enfans". Gouache sur carton découpé collé sur une feuille de papier lavée de bleu. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Other visual (1)
Serment des Enfans.
Lesueur, Jean-Baptiste
Datation
Entre 1790 et 1793
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Serment des Enfans.

Lesueur, Jean-Baptiste
Entre 1790 et 1793
Dessin, Arts graphiques
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Prise de la Bastille par les gardes françaises et les bourgeois de Paris le 14 juillet 1789
© Florent Gomez / Musée Carnavalet / Paris Musées
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© Florent Gomez / Musée Carnavalet / Paris Musées
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Eventail. "Prise de la Bastille par les gardes françaises et les bourgeois de Paris le 14 juillet 1789". Papier, ivoire, rivure d'ivoire et laiton. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Julien Vidal / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Eventail. "Prise de la Bastille par les gardes françaises et les bourgeois de Paris le 14 juillet 1789". Papier, ivoire, rivure d'ivoire et laiton. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Julien Vidal / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Others visuals (4)
Prise de la Bastille par les gardes françaises et les bourgeois de Paris le 14 juillet 1789
Anonyme
Datation
Vers 1789
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Prise de la Bastille par les gardes françaises et les bourgeois de Paris le 14 juillet 1789

Anonyme
Vers 1789
Vêtements et accessoires de vêtement, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 August 1789. The presentation of its 17 articles resembles the Tables of the Law on which God passed the Ten Commandments to Moses. The two columns are separated by revolutionary symbols: the fasces, representing unity and strength; the pike, the weapon of choice of the representatives of the people; and the Phrygian cap, standing for the newfound liberty of the freed slave. There is also a laurel wreath symbolising glory and a serpent biting its tail, signifying eternity. The declaration is flanked by two allegorical figures: to the left, France breaking the chains of royal absolutism, and to the right, Fame holding the sceptre of Reason. At the very top, the radiant triangle of Equality contains the open eye of Providence in an evocation of God surveying humanity.

Inspired by the philosophy of the Enlightenment, the text specifies the "natural, inalienable rights of man". This document was intended as the basis of a new world founded on individual liberty and universal equality before the law. It also stressed the fundamental notions of freedom of speech, assembly and religion. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was to have a profound influence throughout the world.

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Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen.
Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier (dit l'Aîné, attribué à, 1738-1826). "Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen. La Monarchie, tenant les chaînes brisées de la Tyrannie, et le génie de la Nation, tenant le sceptre du Pouvoir, entourent le préambule de la déclaration". Huile sur bois. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Stéphane Piera / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Jean-Jacques-François Le Barbier (dit l'Aîné, attribué à, 1738-1826). "Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen. La Monarchie, tenant les chaînes brisées de la Tyrannie, et le génie de la Nation, tenant le sceptre du Pouvoir, entourent le préambule de la déclaration". Huile sur bois. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Others visuals (2)
Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen.
Le Barbier, Jean-Jacques-François (dit l'Aîné)
Datation
Vers 1789
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen.

Le Barbier, Jean-Jacques-François (dit l'Aîné)
Vers 1789
Peinture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

In the summer of 1789, to ensure the Revolution did not leave disorder and insecurity in its wake, men took up arms in the towns and villages, forming National Guards and organising gatherings that could attract hundreds of thousands of people. The induction of these newly ‘federated’ companies concluded with a huge national ceremony on

14 July 1790: the Fête de la Fédération. The ceremony commemorated the first anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille and was celebrated on the Champ-de-Mars under the leadership of La Fayette. Fifty thousand men from 83 départements (created on 15 January 1790) paraded before the royal family and more than 400,000 Parisians. The Fête de la Fédération also served to display the adhesion of the French people and their king to the constitutional project. The huge crowd swore an oath “to the Nation, to the Law, and to the King” in a state of enthusiasm impervious to the terrible weather. However, behind this facade of unanimity, there were serious tensions. The Revolution was far from over and, in some départements, civil war was breaking out.

The "fête de la Fédération", 1790

The "fête de la Fédération"

On July 14th 1790 a great national celebration was held on the Champ de Mars for the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. For this "Fête de la Fédération" 50,000 men and women from France's 83 départements paraded past the royal family and more than 400,000 Parisians. An enormous crowd then pledged allegiance to "the Nation, the Law and the King", an event depicted is this 1796 painting by Charles Thévenin. Massed together in a stand on the right, the deputies of the Constituent Assembly were to draw up the kingdom's first Constitution. On the steps we see Louis XVI swearing loyalty to the future Constitution, alongside Bailly, the mayor of Paris. Further back Queen Marie-Antoinette is presenting the five year old Dauphin, heir to the throne, to the crowd. In the left-hand part of the picture we see Mass being celebrated on the Altar of the Fatherland, symbol of the Nation.

While the people of France acclaimed the new ideas embodied in the Revolution, they remained very attached to their king. For several days Paris saw a succession of dances, celebrations and banquets, and the Revolution was thought to be over. But this apparent unanimity concealed major tensions, and riots and uprisings continued in a number of départements. 

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Vue de la fête donnée sur le plan de la Bastille
"Vue de la fête donnée sur le plan de la Bastille". Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Other visual (1)
Vue de la fête donnée sur le plan de la Bastille
Anonyme
Datation
Entre 1785 et 1795
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Vue de la fête donnée sur le plan de la Bastille

Anonyme
Entre 1785 et 1795
Estampe, Arts graphiques, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Refusing to accept the challenge to his power, Louis XVI attempted to escape during the night of 20 June 1791. He was caught at Varennes and taken back to the Tuileries where he received an icy reception. The idea of a Republic was beginning to take shape. The majority of the deputies had restrained the radicals, declared the king inviolable, and chosen the compromise of a constitutional monarchy. Indeed, on 14 September, the king swore an oath to the constitution. But as soon as the Constituent Assembly gave way to the Legislative Assembly, preparing for war became the top priority. The French Revolution was seen as a threat by the royal courts of Europe and was also targeted by émigrés who constituted the elite of the army of the Ancien Régime; the risk of invasion was high. Anticipating the danger, the French declared war on Austria on 20 April 1792. At the same time, the king was making less and less effort to hide his duplicity, and the most active of the deputies made preparations for insurrection. During the night of 9 August, a rebel Commune overthrew the municipality. On the 10, the fédérés and workers from poor districts attacked the Tuileries Palace.

The king’s power was suspended, but the Republic was not proclaimed until 22 September. The French were spurred to action: two days before, at Valmy, an army of volunteers had managed to drive back the Prussians. A new assembly, the National Convention, was elected by universal male suffrage.

From constitutional monarchy to the proclamation of the republic, 1791-1792

The King Flees

After the image had been cut into the wood, it was coated with ink and printed as a poster on a sheet of paper. This technique is called wood engraving or woodblock printing.

Here Jean-Baptiste Letourmi depicts the arrest of the king and his family at Varennes. During the night of June 20th 1791, Louis XVI slipped out of Paris with the queen, his sister Madame Élisabeth, the dauphin, his daughter Madame Royale and the children's governess Madame de Tourzel. All of them were dressed as bourgeois. The king had sworn to uphold the Constitution, which had just been passed by the National Assembly, but in secret he was working to regain absolute power. The royal family fled towards Eastern France with a view to rallying loyalist troops or crossing the border and enlisting the support of foreign armies and émigrés from the French nobility. Along the way Louis was recognised by postmaster Jean-Baptiste Drouet, who set off after the coach and caught up with it in the small town of Varennes.

The royal family was brought back to Paris amid booing and catcalling. This episode was one of the Revolution's turning points: the king's flight was seen as treason and cost him the support of part of the population. The idea began to spread that the country no longer needed a king and could become a republic.    

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Arrestation du roi et de sa famille à Varenne le 22 juin 1791
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Letourmy. "Planche d'impression© Philippe Ladet / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Others visuals (3)
Arrestation du roi et de sa famille à Varenne le 22 juin 1791
Letourmi, Jean-Baptiste
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Arrestation du roi et de sa famille à Varenne le 22 juin 1791

Letourmi, Jean-Baptiste
Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Arrestation du roi et de sa famille a Varenne le 22 juin 1791

Letourmi, Jean-Baptiste
Vers 1790
Arts graphiques, Estampe
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Arrestation du roi et de sa famille a Varenne le 22 juin 1791
Jean-Baptiste Letourmy. Arrestation du Roi Louis XVI et de sa famille à Varenne. Gravure sur bois (tirage moderne. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Other visual (1)
Arrestation du roi et de sa famille a Varenne le 22 juin 1791
Letourmi, Jean-Baptiste
Datation
Vers 1790
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

The "sans-culottes"

Painted around 1792, this portrait by Louis-Léopold Boilly is the first known depiction of a "sans-culotte", the nickname given to the revolutionaries, who wore wide trousers instead of the short "culotte" – the knee-breeches – of the nobility and the bourgeoisie. They also wore the Phrygian cap with a tricolour cockade, a reference to the freed slaves of ancient Rome. The striped shirt reflects a "revolutionary fashion" imported from America, but the pipe and the clogs reveal a man of the people.

As members of the urban underclass, the sans-culottes demanded an egalitarian republic based on the sovereignty of the people. They met and discussed in neighbourhood assemblies and radical political clubs. In favour of direct action, they took part in the storming of the Tuileries Palace on August 10th 1792, which led to the fall of the monarchy.

Here the "sans-culotte" is carrying a tricolour. A product of the revolution, this flag combined the red and blue of the city of Paris with the royal white. The three colours were initially brought together as a cockade, but in 1794 the governing National Convention enforced vertical stripes and the sequence of the colours. On the flag in the painting are the words "Liberty or death", which was at that time equally used as "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" that would become the motto of the French Republic.

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Portrait du chanteur Simon Chenard (1758-1832), en costume de sans-culotte, portant un drapeau à la fête de la liberté de la Savoie, le 14 octobre 1792
Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761-1845). "Le chanteur Simon Chenard (1758-1832) en costume de sans-culotte, portant un drapeau à la fête de la liberté de la Savoie, le 14 octobre 1792". Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Other visual (1)
Portrait du chanteur Simon Chenard (1758-1832), en costume de sans-culotte, portant un drapeau à la fête de la liberté de la Savoie, le 14 octobre 1792
Boilly, Louis Léopold
Datation
Vers 1792
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Sans-culottes en armes.

Lesueur, Jean-Baptiste
Entre 1793 et 1794
Dessin, Arts graphiques
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
Zoom
Sans-culottes en armes.
Jean-Baptiste Lesueur (1749-1826). "Sans-culottes en armes". Gouache sur carton découpé collé sur une feuille de papier lavée de bleu. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Other visual (1)
Sans-culottes en armes.
Lesueur, Jean-Baptiste
Datation
Entre 1793 et 1794
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

After the storming of the Tuileries Palace on 10 August, the king was stripped of his powers on 21 September and imprisoned, along with his family, at the Temple Tower. From then on, he was nicknamed ‘Louis Capet’ by the revolutionaries, not just in reference to his ancestor, Hugues Capet, but above all as a reminder of his new status as an ordinary citizen.

After the discovery of the king’s "armoire de fer", a secret cupboard full of documents proving his collusion with foreign sovereigns and that he had managed to corrupt many political figures, the Convention decided to put the king on trial.

After a long debate, the king was found guilty almost unanimously, though only a slight majority condemned him to death. He was guillotined on 21 January 1793 in the Place de la Révolution (today’s Place de la Concorde). Marie-Antoinette met the same fate on 16 October closely followed by Madame Élisabeth, the king’s sister. The Dauphin, who would have become Louis XVII, died at the Temple prison on 8 June 1795. Madame Royale, his sister, was exchanged for other prisoners in 1795. The execution of the king was considered a sacrilege by many French people and Europeans, and it brought matters to a head. Many French people, particularly in the West, refused to be enlisted in the Republican armies and took up arms against the Revolution. At the same time, a sizeable European coalition was formed, which in turn further radicalised the revolutionaries in France.

The fall of the monarchy and the fate of the royal family, 1792-1793

The prison of the temple

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Habit du dauphin Louis XVII
ANONYME Habit, gilet et pantalon de Louis XVII, vers 1792 1792 LADET | PIGNOL CLAIREGalliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris.© Galliera / Roger-Viollet
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Habit du dauphin Louis XVII
Anonyme
Datation
Entre 1790 et 1792
Museum
Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

Habit du dauphin Louis XVII

Anonyme
Entre 1790 et 1792
Vêtements et accessoires de vêtement, Révolution française
Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris
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Portrait de Marie-Antoinette au Temple
D'après Alexandre Kucharski (1741-1819). "Marie-Antoinette au Temple". Huile sur toile. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Portrait de Marie-Antoinette au Temple
Anonyme
Datation
Vers 1815
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Portrait de Marie-Antoinette au Temple

Anonyme, Kucharski, Alexandre
Vers 1815
Peinture, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Révolution française : La famille royale dans le jardin du Temple, en compagnie de Cléry. 4ème arrondissemnent
"La famille Royale se promenant dans le jardin du Temple, et Cléry y jouant avec le Dauphin", 1792. Estampe anonyme. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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© Musée Carnavalet / Ville de Paris
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Révolution française : La famille royale dans le jardin du Temple, en compagnie de Cléry. 4ème arrondissemnent
Anonyme
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Révolution française : La famille royale dans le jardin du Temple, en compagnie de Cléry. 4ème arrondissemnent

Anonyme
Estampe, Arts graphiques, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

The reform of the calendar was particularly revealing of revolutionary attitudes towards time and history. The National Convention’s desire to overhaul the measurement of time is just one example of its attempts to adapt French people’s habits to suit the new values of the Republic.

On 20 September 1793, the deputy Gilbert Romme delivered a report to the Convention concerning what was to become the Republican calendar, intended to replace its Gregorian predecessor. After a number of adjustments, an act passed on 4 Frimaire of the year II (24 November 1793) finalized its structure. The Republican calendar began on 1 Vendémiaire of the year i (22 September 1792), the day of the proclamation of the Republic. The calendar year was divided into twelve months of thirty days each, with six days added at the end of the year. Each month was divided into three sets of ten days. The names of the months and the days were thought up by the poet Fabre d’Églantine to describe the seasons and their corresponding agricultural activity. The revolutionary calendar survived until 1 January 1806. Even as the Empire took hold, many Republican symbols continued to be used in an attempt to unite the French people.

A further measure concerned the division of each day into decimal segments: each of the ten ‘hours’ was divided into ten ‘minutes’, which were divided into ten ‘seconds’. However this urge to reduce all measurements to the same system met with such practical difficulties for watchmakers that the experiment was abandoned in 1795.

The measurement of time : the republicain calendar and decimal time

Decimal time

Made around 1795, this is a rare kind of clock: it functions according to the decimal time established by the French Revolution. Under the Ancien Régime units of measurement differed widely from one part of France to another, which made everyday life complicated and hampered business. In 1790 the National Assembly asked experts from the Academy of Science to devise a single, simple system of weights and measures for the whole country. The results were the metre, kilogram and litre, all decimal-based. Henceforth everything, including time, was to be divisible by ten: weeks had ten days, days had ten hours, hours had a hundred minutes and minutes had a hundred seconds.

Most decimal clocks are of the skeleton type seen here, with mechanisms visible at the centre of the largest dial. This dial indicated decimal divisions – a day of ten hours – and the names of the months of the new republican calendar; the latter began on 1 Vendémiaire (September 22nd 1792), the day when the Republic was proclaimed. The decimal system was never really applied to timekeeping, but the republican calendar remained in force until 1 January 1806.

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Pendule squelette à heure décimale
Bruel. "Pendule squelette à deux cadrans, époque révolutionnaire". Mobilier. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Philippe Ladet / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Pendule squelette à heure décimale
Bruel
Datation
Vers 1795
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Pendule squelette à heure décimale

Bruel
Vers 1795
Mobilier, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

The history of the National Convention was marked by a struggle between two political groups: the Girondins, who opposed any extension of participation by the people and supported economic liberalism; and the Montagnards, who were closer to the sans-culottes and in favour of the extension of emergency measures. In the spring

of 1793, the Convention created a Committee of Public Safety, Surveillance Committees in the cities and towns, and a Committee of General Security in Paris. Ordinary law was ousted by emergency measures, which eroded democracy.

After the fall of the Girondins on 2 June 1793, the Montagnards voted a new, more social and democratic constitution known as the Constitution of Year I. Although it was never applied, it had an important effect on the following century.

Overwhelmed by civil war and the invasion of France, the Convention had both to defend the Republic and to create a new egalitarian society. The resulting laws were at times contradictory.

On the one hand, the dictatorship would tolerate no opposition, women were excluded from political life, and violence was sanctioned, On the other hand the Convention also defined a national social action policy, passed the first law making school compulsory and they were the first in history to abolish slavery. But there was a great increase in political repression with the passing, on 10 June 1794, of the law of 22 Prairial. The arrest of Robespierre and his allies on 27 July 1794 (9 Thermidor Year II) indicated an urge to temper the Revolution.

The convention 1792-1794

Maximilien de Robespierre

Originally a lawyer from Arras, Maximilien Robespierre was one of the Third Estate deputies elected in 1789. Known as "the Incorruptible", he earned fame at the beginning of the Revolution with his forceful personality and powerful oratory. Re-elected under the National Convention – the assembly that governed France from 1792 to 1795 – he sided with the far Left "Montagnards", who were close to the sans-culottes and receptive to popular demands.

Robespierre is depicted here not as a political man of action, but as a distinguished figure, elegantly dressed and with his hair scrupulously powdered.

As a member of the Committee for Public Safety, he played a significant part in the revolutionary government. Founded in the spring of 1793, this political organisation was intended to save a Republic then under threat not only from war outside France's borders, but also from uprisings within the country and conflicts among Republicans. Accused of tyranny, he was arrested on 9 Thermidor Year II (July 27th 1794) and guillotined the next day with a number of his followers.

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Portrait de Maximilien De Robespierre (1758-1798), homme politique
David D'Angers (1788-1856). Portrait de Maximilien de Robespierre (1758-1798), homme politique. Bronze. Fonte au sable. 1835. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Pierre Jean David Dangers. "Robespierre, 1835". Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Portrait de Maximilien De Robespierre (1758-1798), homme politique
David d'Angers, Pierre-Jean
Datation
En 1835
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Portrait de Maximilien De Robespierre (1758-1798), homme politique

David d'Angers, Pierre-Jean, Richard, Louis
En 1835
Sculpture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

The guillotine

This scale model is a faithful copy of a guillotine from the revolutionary era. It comprises two uprights slotted to hold a sliding blade. The condemned person was strapped to a horizontal board with his or her head held in place in the circular lunette. The severed head fell into a basket or leather bag and after the execution the body was placed in a wicker or wooden basket.   

The guillotine owes its name to Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a doctor elected as a Third Estate deputy in 1789. He was not, however, its inventor: the idea for the machine came from Doctor Antoine Louis, working from a principle in use in France and other countries since the Middle Ages. It was Guillotin, though, who suggested that all those condemned to death, whatever their social status and crimes, should be guillotined as a way of reducing their suffering.

The guillotine was used for the first time on April 25th 1792, and its use became more frequent after the execution of Louis XVI on January 21st 1793. In France the last guillotining took place in 1977, prior to abolition of the death penalty in 1981.

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Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps
Berger. Modèle réduit de guillotine. Maquette. Bois teinté, 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Marie-Laure Berthier / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. Modèle réduit de guillotine. Maquette. Bois teinté, 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Berger. "Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps". Bois teinté, fonte. 1876. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps
Berger
Datation
En 1876
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Modèle réduit de guillotine avec le panier servant à la réception du corps

Berger
En 1876
Maquette
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Une exécution capitale, place de la Révolution

Demachy, Pierre-Antoine
Vers 1793
Peinture, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Une exécution capitale, place de la Révolution
Pierre-Antoine Demachy (1723-1807). "Exécution capitale, place de la Révolution". Huile sur papier marouflé. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Patrick Pierrain / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Une exécution capitale, place de la Révolution
Demachy, Pierre-Antoine
Datation
Vers 1793
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

The Thermidorian regime in the National Convention began with the fall of Robespierre (27 July 1794). Many French people were now looking for a compromise. The Thermidorians wanted to bring the Revolution to an end by setting up a conservative Republic. The regime was established by the Constitution of Year III (22 August 1795).

It was called ‘The Directory’ (Directoire) because it had five Directors who exercised collective executive power. Although the deputies were no longer entrusted with total power, collegial administration was supposed to avoid authoritarian abuse. The universal suffrage elections were abolished ans the regime established a bicameral system on the English model, by which only qualified property holders elected the two legislative chambers (the Council of Five Hundred and the Council of Ancients). Though it has oft been ignored, the Directory was an important political test bed, particularly in Europe, where several ‘Sister Republics’ came into being. But bringing civil war to an end was no easy matter. The period was punctuated by a series of plots and coups d’état, from both the left (Neo-Jacobin) and the right (Royalist). Finally, Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup succeeded on 18 Brumaire, Year VIII (9 November 1799).

The Directory was then replaced by the Consulat, an authoritarian regime run by three consuls, of whom only the first consul, Napoleon Bonaparte, appointed for life in 1802, held any real power. Two years later, the proclamation of the First Empire marked the end of the First French Republic (1792-1804).

The directory 1795 - 1799

"Incroyables" and "Merveilleuses" (Dandies and fine ladies)

 

 
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Les Merveilleuses
Louis Darcis (mort en 1801) et Carle Vernet (1758-1836). "Les Merveilleuses". Eau-forte pointillé. 1797. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Les Merveilleuses
Darcis, Louis
Datation
En 1797
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Les Merveilleuses

Dating from the Directory period of government (1795–1799), this cartoon shows young bourgeois or aristocrats whose extravagant dress was intended as an anti-revolutionary statement.

The men, known as Incroyables – they pronounced it Inc'oyables, dropping the letter R because it suggested the word "Revolution" – wore huge neckties, short waistcoats, cocked hats and pointed, medieval-style shoes. They were also recognisable by their hair, which was plaited or allowed to fall over the temples in what was called the "dog ear" style. Their trappings also included the bludgeon-stick, a formidable weapon in street battles between royalists and republicans.

Their female equivalents, the Merveilleuses, wore flimsy dresses in an antique vein. As these close-fitting garments left no room for pockets, the Merveilleusecarried or wore on her belt a small bag known as a reticule. Her outfit was rounded off with expensive accessories: wigs, fans, pince-nez and hats with enormous peaks.

These fashions were generously publicised in cartoons such as this one by Jean-Louis Darcis (after Carle Vernet). The cartoons enjoyed great success and were frequently reprinted.

Darcis, Louis, Vernet, Carle
En 1797
Estampe, Arts graphiques
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Les Croyables / Actifs du Palais ci-dev.t Royal.
Salvadore Tresca (1750-1815). Les Croyables, actifs du Palais ci-devant Royal. Eau-forte pointillé. 1797. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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"Les Croyables actifs du Palais ci-devant Royal". Estampe de Tresca. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Les Croyables / Actifs du Palais ci-dev.t Royal.
Tresca, Salvatore
Datation
En 1797
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Les Croyables / Actifs du Palais ci-dev.t Royal.

Tresca, Salvatore
En 1797
Estampe, Arts graphiques
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Quatre couples en promenade.
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Other visual (1)
Quatre couples en promenade.
Lesueur, Jean-Baptiste
Datation
Entre 1795 et 1805
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Quatre couples en promenade.

Lesueur, Jean-Baptiste
Entre 1795 et 1805
Dessin, Arts graphiques
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

The Revolution was marked by a long period of war. Innumerable campaigns, involving unprecedented mobilisation, saved the French Republic from defeat. Certain victories even significantly extended its territories. After pushing back the Prussians at Valmy on 20 September 1792, the French went on the offensive, as much to ‘liberate’ neighbouring populations and increase the spread of ‘civilisation’ as to defend the Republic and garner public support. Victories at Jemmapes (6 November 1792) and Fleurus (26 June 1794) led to the annexation of what is now Belgium. Other territorial gains included Savoy, Nice, and the left bank of the Rhine, as well as several ‘Sister Republics’, including the Batavian Republic and the Italian republics.

From the beginning, the French Revolution was also marked by civil war. With the aim of restoring the monarchy, the authority of the church and French ‘traditions’, insurrectionary movements sprang up in various regions of France, but especially in the West, where the Vendée region became synonymous with the Counter-Revolution.

Under the Directory, war and an increasing need for authority provided an opportunity for many soldiers to rise rapidly through the ranks and assert themselves as political figures. Brilliant soldiers, like Kléber, Jourdan, Hoche and Marceau, rose rapidly up the military hierarchy. The most brilliant ascension, however, was that of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Revolution and war, 1792-1799

Recruiting for the army

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Au garde national. Enseigne de recrutement militaire. Paris
"Au Garde Française". Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Marie-Laure Berthier / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Au garde national. Enseigne de recrutement militaire. Paris
Anonyme
Datation
Entre 1775 et 1800
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Au garde national. Enseigne de recrutement militaire. Paris

This sign shows a member of the National Guard, a volunteer militia created on July 14th 1789 and commanded by the Marquis de La Fayette until 1791. The soldier is wearing the uniform of the French Guards, who shared in the storming of the Bastille. Attached to his jacket is the communal gold medal awarded to the French Guards for their part in that victory.

During the Revolution, this sign was used to attract volunteers for the numerous military campaigns of the time. On July 11th 1792 the National Assembly declared "the Homeland in danger" and summoned all volunteers to Paris. Naturally enough they lacked the experience and discipline of professional soldiers, but they were more than willing to fight for their country.

Even so, France quickly ran short of officers and men. When volunteers were no longer numerous enough, coercion was used. In 1793 the "levy en masse" conscripted all males aged 18 to 25 who were single or widowers without children.

On September 5th 1798 the Jourdan-Delbrel Law introduced compulsory military service on the grounds that "every Frenchman is a soldier and must help defend the homeland".

Anonyme
Entre 1775 et 1800
Sculpture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Joyeux départ des volontaires aux armées
Jean-Baptiste Lesueur (1749-1826). "Joyeux départ des volontaires aux armées". Gouache sur carton découpé collé sur une feuille de papier lavée de bleu. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Jean-Baptiste Lesueur (1749-1826). "Joyeux départ des volontaires aux armées". Gouache sur carton découpé collé sur une feuille de papier lavée de bleu. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Jean-Baptiste Lesueur (1749-1826). "Joyeux départ des volontaires aux armées". Gouache sur carton découpé collé sur une feuille de papier lavée de bleu. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Joyeux départ des volontaires aux armées
Lesueur, Jean-Baptiste
Datation
Entre 1792 et 1793
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Joyeux départ des volontaires aux armées

Lesueur, Jean-Baptiste
Entre 1792 et 1793
Dessin, Arts graphiques
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Le citoyen Nau-Deville, en uniforme de la garde nationale, faisant transporter un convoi d'armes et de munitions
Jean-François Bellier (1745-1836). "Le citoyen Nau-Deville, en uniforme de la Garde nationale, faisant transporter au district de Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois un convoi d'armes et de munitions enlevé à l'Arsenal - On aperçoit la démolition de la Bastille". Huile sur toile, 1790 . Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Le citoyen Nau-Deville, en uniforme de la garde nationale, faisant transporter un convoi d'armes et de munitions
Bellier, Jean-François
Datation
1790
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Le citoyen Nau-Deville, en uniforme de la garde nationale, faisant transporter un convoi d'armes et de munitions

Bellier, Jean-François
1790
Peinture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

General Bonaparte

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Portrait de Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821), général
Charles-Louis Corbet. "Bonaparte". Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Marie-Laure Berthier / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Charles-Louis Corbet. "Buste de Napoléon Bonaparte". Plâtre. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Stéphane Piera / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Portrait de Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821), général
Corbet, Charles-Louis
Datation
Vers 1798
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Portrait de Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821), général

This bust is one of the first portraits of General Napoleon Bonaparte, destined to become Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. The young general, who had just covered himself with glory in Italy and was now leading the Egyptian expedition, was becoming steadily more popular. On Brumaire 18th, Year VIII – December 9th 1799 - he organised a coup d'état against the ruling Directory. The next day he was appointed provisional consul, and a month later First Consul.

Here Bonaparte is shown life-size, wearing his general's uniform and fitting with descriptions of him at the time: thin face, hollow cheeks, determined chin, long hair pulled back on the nape of the neck, with locks falling on the temples and forehead. The cape draped over his shoulder suggests the traditional ceremonial portrait: it was used to underscore the grandeur of princes and sovereigns shown in official or heroic poses.

The work of sculptor Charles-Louis Corbet, this plaster bust was an immediate success, and numerous marble and bronze copies would follow.

Corbet, Charles-Louis
Vers 1798
Sculpture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Portrait de Bonaparte (1762-1821), général

David d'Angers, Pierre-Jean
Sculpture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Portrait de Bonaparte (1762-1821), général
David d'Angers (1788-1856). Le général Bonaparte. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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David d'Angers (1788-1856). Portrait de Bonaparte (1769-1821), général. Bronze. Fonte au sable. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Eric Emo / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Portrait de Bonaparte (1762-1821), général
David d'Angers, Pierre-Jean
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

From 1789 on, the most visible signs of despotism and social inequality came under attack. This intensified with the king’s attempted escape (20 June 1791) and the abolition of the monarchy (10 August 1792).

In cities and in the country, statues of kings and saints, crosses, fleurs-de-lis and coats of arms were broken, defaced or hammered to pieces, creating in the process a new kind of public space. At the same time, in response to the needs of war, many Parisian churches became places of assembly, or were turned into hospitals, barracks or hay barns. The word ‘vandalism’ was used by Abbé Grégoire in 1794 to deplore such acts, but it obscures the fact that most of them were a concerted response to various laws and that excesses were generally condemned. Many of the objects taken were not destroyed but put on public display for the first time. It could be said that the Revolution invented the notion of ‘national heritage’, and was the creator of the first museums : the Muséum d’histoire naturelle, for example, in June 1793, the Muséum des Arts (the present Musée du Louvre) in November 1793, the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers in October 1794, and the Musée des monuments français, created in 1795 by Alexandre Lenoir.

Destructions, obliterations and the invention of "National heritage"

the Musée des Monuments Français

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La Salle d'introduction du musée des Monuments français.
VAUZELLE Jean Lubin La salle dintroduction du musée des Monuments français, aux Petits-Augustins, vers 1804 1804 HUILE SUR TOILE DEGRACES© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Jean Lubin Vauzelle (1776-1837). La salle d'introduction du musée des Monuments français, aux Petits-Augustins (aujourd'hui Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-arts). Paris (Vème arr.). Huile sur toile, vers 1804. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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La Salle d'introduction du musée des Monuments français.
Vauzelle, Jean Lubin
Datation
En 1804
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

La Salle d'introduction du musée des Monuments français.

This painting is of a room in the Musée des Monuments Français, which was created by the painter Alexandre Lenoir. It was one of the first museums in France and it grew out of the French Revolution. It opened to the public in 1795 in the buildings of the Convent of the Petits Augustins. At the beginning of the Revolution, it had been turned into a depository for goods confiscated from the clergy following the decree of  2 November 1789. Lenoir’s intention had been to save these new national treasures from revolutionary ‘vandalism’ and the destruction of the buildings, whose stones were now being used as building materials.

The museum was intended as a place of instruction. Inside, it consisted of several rooms in which mediaeval and modern carvings were presented in chronological order, to give the visitor an idea of the development of sculpture and architecture in France. The museum’s collections played a part in drawing up a new history of the French nation.

Each room was differentiated by its own particular decoration and atmosphere. The room devoted to the 15th century, illustrated here, for example, is richly decorated in the taste of that period. Close to the tomb in the centre of the room, Lenoir can be seen describing the monument to a visitor. 

Vauzelle, Jean Lubin
En 1804
Peinture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Portrait d'Alexandre Lenoir (1762-1839), fondateur du musée des monuments français
Marie-Geneviève Bouliard (1763-1825). "Alexandre Lenoir (1761-1839), fondateur du musée des Monuments français". Huile sur toile marouflée sur bois. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Portrait d'Alexandre Lenoir (1762-1839), fondateur du musée des monuments français
Bouliard, Marie-Geneviève
Datation
Vers 1796
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Portrait d'Alexandre Lenoir (1762-1839), fondateur du musée des monuments français

Bouliard, Marie-Geneviève
Vers 1796
Peinture, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Le Jardin du Musée des monuments français, ancien couvent des Petits-Augustins
Hubert Robert (1733-1808). "Le jardin du musée des Monuments français", 1803. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Le Jardin du Musée des monuments français, ancien couvent des Petits-Augustins
Robert, Hubert
Datation
En 1803
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Le Jardin du Musée des monuments français, ancien couvent des Petits-Augustins

Robert, Hubert
En 1803
Peinture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

The destruction of the royal tombs at Saint-Denis

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La Violation des caveaux des rois dans la basilique de Saint-Denis, en octobre 1793
Hubert Robert (1733-1808). "La violation des caveaux des rois dans la basilique de Saint-Denis, en octobre 1793". Huile sur toile. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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La Violation des caveaux des rois dans la basilique de Saint-Denis, en octobre 1793
Robert, Hubert
Datation
Vers 1793
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

La Violation des caveaux des rois dans la basilique de Saint-Denis, en octobre 1793

This painting depicts the destruction of the royal tombs in the Basilica of St Denis, which had been the main necropolis of the kings of France for several centuries. The destruction of the tombs was ordered by the National Convention to celebrate the first anniversary of the fall of the monarchy on 10 August 1792. The revolutionaries sought to wipe the slate clean by destroying the visible signs of the former regime (the Ancien Régime).

This painting shows them carrying the coffins out of the crypt with the aid of long ladders, before destroying the tombs and throwing the remains of the kings into communal graves. Through the destroyed underground gallery, one can make out the walls and the stained glass of the Gothic nave of the church. The painter has made much of the contrast between the darkness of the crypt and the light shining down into the vault. The painting is characteristic of Hubert Robert’s style. He was fascinated by the ruins of ancient Rome and, later, by those wrought by the French Revolution, gaining, in the meantime, the nickname Robert des ruines.

Robert, Hubert
Vers 1793
Peinture, Révolution française
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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L'Eglise des Feuillants en démolition
Hubert Robert (1733-1808). "L'église des Feuillants en démolition". Huile sur toile. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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L'Eglise des Feuillants en démolition
Robert, Hubert
Datation
Vers 1804
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

L'Eglise des Feuillants en démolition

Robert, Hubert
Vers 1804
Peinture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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La Démolition de l'église Saint-Jean-en-Grève, en 1800
Hubert Robert (1733-1808). "La démolition de l'église Saint-Jean-en-grève, en 1800". Huile sur toile. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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La Démolition de l'église Saint-Jean-en-Grève, en 1800
Robert, Hubert
Datation
Vers 1800
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

La Démolition de l'église Saint-Jean-en-Grève, en 1800

Robert, Hubert
Vers 1800
Peinture
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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Translation des restes de Louis XVI et de Marie-Antoinette à Saint-Denis, le 21 janvier 1815
Jean-Démosthène Dugourg (1749-1825). "Translation des restes de Louis XVI et de Marie-Antoinette à Saint-Denis le 21 janvier 1815". Dessin. Paris, musée Carnavalet.© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet
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Translation des restes de Louis XVI et de Marie-Antoinette à Saint-Denis, le 21 janvier 1815
Dugourc, Jean-Démosthène
Datation
Entre 1810 et 1820
Museum
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris

Translation des restes de Louis XVI et de Marie-Antoinette à Saint-Denis, le 21 janvier 1815

Dugourc, Jean-Démosthène
Entre 1810 et 1820
Dessin, Arts graphiques
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
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