A symbol for the First Republic

A symbol for the First Republic


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Allegorical figure of the Republic.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

On September 21, 1792, the Convention abolished the monarchy. It is this image which is used here in the sketch of the large painting that Antoine-Jean Gros produced in 1794 as an escutcheon for the French legation in Genoa.

Image Analysis

The Republic, a solid figure of a young woman, is surrounded by five attributes: the pike surmounted by the Phrygian cap, symbol of Liberty, the level, symbol of equality, placed on a lictor bundle surrounded by oak leaves (the union and strength). She wears a short, antique tunic which leaves her an uncovered breast, and her war helmet is there to recall the ancient allegories of Rome as well as to represent the nation in arms against the united monarchies. In the background of this powerful effigy placed on a simple terrace, the landscape is only incidental, reduced to a horizon line interspersed with mountains.

Interpretation

“My great figure of Liberty or the French Republic, wrote Gros on March 16, 1795 to his mother, is finished; we seem happy about it. It is true that in this country there are no severe judges in painting: I believe, however, that it is not in the noblest style. She's at least passable, well I did what I could. "The discontent of the young artist, aged twenty-three at the time of the realization of this large canvas now lost but of which Versailles keeps this sketch of small dimensions (which could however be only a simple replica), announces undoubtedly the predominance that the force of the symbol will take on the artistic quality of the official works during all the revolutionary period, with very rare exceptions. It is also true that this massive and sculptural figure had been conceived to be seen in a frontal way from a distance and certainly from below, which may explain why Gros, especially practiced at the time in painting portraits, did not master it well. proportions.

  • allegory
  • Convention
  • Marianne
  • Republic
  • Abbot Gregory
  • Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen

Bibliography

Maurice AGULHON Marianne in combat, republican imagery and symbolism from 1789 to 1889 Paris, Flammarion, 1979.Maurice AGULHON, Pierre BONTE Marianne: The Faces of the Republic Paris, Gallimard, 1992.The French Revolution and Europe 1789-1799 , catalog of the exhibition at the Grand-PalaisParis, RMN, 1989.Maurice AGULHON Marianne in combat, republican imagery and symbolism from 1789 to 1889 Paris, Flammarion, 1979.Maurice AGULHON, Pierre BONTE Marianne: The Faces of the Republic Paris, Gallimard, 1992.The French Revolution and Europe 1789-1799 , catalog of the exhibition at the Grand-PalaisParis, RMN, 1989.

To cite this article

Robert FOHR and Pascal TORRÈS, “A symbol for the First Republic”


Video: Andreas Tögel - The First Republic: The Rest is Austria PFS 2019


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