1792, the Nation in arms

1792, the Nation in arms

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Title: The National Guard of Paris leaves for the army. September 1792.

Author : COGNIET Léon (1794 - 1880)

Creation date : 1836

Date shown: September 1792

Dimensions: Height 189 - Width 76

Technique and other indications: Commissioned for Versailles in 1833 Oil on canvas

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Picture reference: 81EE204 / MV 2333

The National Guard of Paris leaves for the army. September 1792.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

On July 11, 1792, faced with military defeats and threats of invasion (from the Prussians of the Duke of Brunswick and the emigrants of the Prince of Condé), the legislative assembly declared "the Fatherland in danger" and the raising of 50,000 volunteers from among the national guards.

At the end of the summer, the military situation becomes dire. Longwy surrendered on August 23 to the Prussians, Verdun surrendered. On August 26, the assembly then approved, on Danton's proposal, a new levy of 30,000 men.

Image Analysis

This composition represents an enlistment scene that took place in Paris on the Pont Neuf. The topography of the site is taken from an engraving by Berthault after Prieur. We see, at the site of the statue of Henry IV withdrawn by the Revolution, a tricolor standard brandished on the empty pedestal.

On horseback, greeting the crowd, appears Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve, mayor of Paris. The latter is a symbol for the sans-culottes, having requested the downfall of the king and allowed the capture of the Tuileries to take place on August 10. Among the other patriots recognizable on the composition, we will note in the foreground Nicolas Joseph Maison, future Marshal of France, Paul-Charles-François Thiébault, future lieutenant general, and Jean-Baptiste Claude Odiot, lieutenant of the grenadiers. On the edge of the quay, to the right, raising her hat, is Théroigne de Méricourt, one of the female figures of the Revolution.

The women, in the foreground, offer olive branches, kiss their children, are saddened by the departure of the partisans. The general atmosphere of the composition celebrates the enthusiasm of these volunteers who contributed to the victories of Valmy and Jemmapes.


In this retrospective evocation of the departure of the volunteers, Léon Cogniet directs the unifying myth of the Revolution towards a representation where the romantic spirit tends to individualize the characters. Commissioned in 1833 for the Historical Galleries of Versailles by Louis-Philippe, this painting had to celebrate, under the July monarchy, the memory of the unity of the Nation in order to give the theme of national reconciliation, dear to Louis- Philippe, all his historical sense.

Of course, the departure of the volunteers had to have a first-rate significance for the contemporaries of Louis-Philippe: alongside the victories of Louis XIV and Napoleon, this evocation of the Nation consecrated in the 1792 room of the Historical Museum of Versailles attracted the attention of the spectators on the fact that the regime of Louis-Philippe also claimed to be, like the Republic born from the destruction of the Ancien Régime, directly resulting from the popular will. Wasn't Louis-Philippe the "King of the French"?

  • Convention
  • tricolour flag
  • National Guard
  • revolutionary wars
  • Parisians
  • patriotism
  • New Bridge
  • sans culottes
  • Valmy
  • Danton (Georges)
  • Paris
  • Henry IV
  • Pétion de Villeneuve (Jérôme)
  • Théroigne de Méricourt (Anne-Josèphe)


François FURET, Mona OZOUF, Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, Paris, Flammarion, 1988, reprint, coll. "Champs", 1992.

To cite this article

Robert FOHR and Pascal TORRÈS, "1792, la Nation enarme"

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