Anti-republican charge

Anti-republican charge

  • Apotheosis or the triumph of the rabble.

    BOUTET-DE-MONVEL Maurice (1884 - 1949)

  • The kid from Paris to the Tuileries.

    DAUMIER Honoré (1808 - 1879)

  • Louis XIV receives the Ambassadors of the King of Siam at Versailles.

    COYPEL Antoine (1661 - 1722)

Apotheosis or the triumph of the rabble.

© Orléans Museum of Fine Arts

The kid from Paris to the Tuileries.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

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Title: Louis XIV receives the Ambassadors of the King of Siam at Versailles.

Author : COYPEL Antoine (1661 - 1722)

Creation date : 1686

Date shown: 01 September 1686

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Picture reference: 94CE60053 / 26985 LR

Louis XIV receives the Ambassadors of the King of Siam at Versailles.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

April 22, 1885, Le Figaro title "New incident at the Salon": the painting by Maurice Boutet de Monvel is definitively refused at the exhibition on the grounds that the vision of the Commune delivered is likely to "provoke, in the middle of the salon, dangerous or unpleasant altercations [1] ". Two weeks later, the daily reports that ’Apotheosis will be exhibited in its premises [2] and invites its subscribers to come and see it.

Why does this canvas, signed by a little-known artist, mainly illustrator and designer, arouse so many passions? Presumably because it is akin to a charge that is not only anti-Communist but anti-Republican.

The painting, which shows a barricade of the “Bloody Week” (May 21-28, 1871), was produced more than thirteen years after the tragedy because, from December 1871 to the amnesty of 1880, the Paris Commune, violently repressed, is the subject of a legal arsenal which censors any manifestation of memory.

Apotheosis is the work of an aristocrat who, like most members of theintelligentsia French, had left the capital during the civil war. It essentially aims, via allegory and caricature, to illustrate the reactionary writings published after the Commune.

Image Analysis

Boutet de Monvel parodies famous engravings and paintings. His monumental painting, in the shape of a centered human pyramid, is openly inspired by the history painting exhibited in the Gallery of the Battles of Versailles. But here, at the height of the composition, the viewer does not discover any heroes. The point of the triangle is occupied by the sinister Robert Macaire, who symbolizes, throughout the second half of the XIXe century, the unscrupulous businessman. The latter, transformed into a somnambulist, blesses with his outstretched hands a sort of beggar king, sunk in his seat (as Le Gamin de Paris at the Tuileries by Honoré Daumier).

Apotheosis It is also inspired by the almanacs presenting, in allegorical drawings, the deeds of Louis XIV, especially the audience given by the king to the Siamese embassy. But here, everything is ridiculous. The throne is replaced by an armchair topped with a tiny crown. The monarch is not adorned with a fleurdelysé coat but with a red flag; his legs are not sheathed in silk but covered with moth-eaten trousers whose brown color merges with that of the wall against which he is leaning. In his hands there was no sword of justice and no scepter, but a bottle of wine and a nasty knife. The sovereign is not seated majestically but slumped, his crown askew. He does not defeat the Fronde but tramples with his bare and dirty foot a woman who embodies France. Above his head does not appear a winged Victory but the stranglehold of a brown financier.

Beyond the laughter, this carnival turnaround authorizes a radical denunciation of the event, by distorting it. In fact, the barricades, manned by men but also women and children, made it possible to resist the offensive of Versailles soldiers for a few days. On the canvas, the barricade, made up of cobblestones, defends nothing: it is erected against the wall of a sort of prison, with its curious walled-up window with bars. The enemy is absent and the mob's weapons are only a pike and two clubs. The only extra wearing a cap and wearing a bourgeron is placed as a leader, from the back.

The rare individualized faces are not those of workers but of old men in torn frock coats, a sort of ill-famed bohemian. The image is almost populated by men. You can hardly tell the hair of a woman at the bottom of the frame. With the exception of a baby, the only child in the scene is one-eyed, his face distorted by a screaming mouth. At the bottom of the barricade, a crowd resembling the Court of Miracles cheers their new master, filthy hands raised, threadbare hats and crude canes thrown. It is no longer about a revolution but about a restoration.

Boutet de Monvel also tends to make these strange communards the gravediggers of the Republic since the clothing of "France" and the two sheets between which it lies draw the tricolor. This return to the past is further accentuated by the presence of two heroes of The Auberge des Adrets : Bertrand, who hits the bass drum, and Macaire, whom the pale complexion, the black frock coat and top hat, the red scarf, transform on their return from the July monarchy who saw him appear on the boards, popularized by Frédéric Lemaître and Daumier.


This outrageous picture tells us less about the nature of the Commune than about the state of mind of the elites who believed themselves threatened by barbarians and took revenge for the fear they felt. It betrays the changes that have taken place from one revolution to another.

The artists, for the most part alongside the workers in February 1848, moved away from it as early as the insurrectionary days of June, during which the closing of the National Workshops threw thousands of destitute into the streets. This experience left them with a disappointing vision of the people [3], henceforth assimilated to the populace, the drunkard thugs bearing on their bodies the sigmata of degeneration.

But Apotheosis, even if his anti-Communard charge pleased the majority, had no place at the Salon of 1885. The same year in which ministerial instability (fall of the Ferry Ministry) and an unprecedented criticism of the Republic began, showing a Restoration , even if it was a parody, was out of place.

  • embassies
  • barricades
  • caricature
  • Municipality of Paris
  • red flag
  • hurry
  • living room


Alfred DARCEL, "Museums, the arts and artists during the Commune", Gazette of Fine Arts, flight. 5, 1872, p. 41-65 (part 1), p. 140-150 (2nd part), p. 210-229 (part 3), p. 398-418 (4th part) and p. 479-490 (late).

Prosper O. LISSAGARAY, History of the Municipality of 1871, Paris, 1876 (republished Maspero, 1976).

Jacques ROUGERIE, Free Paris 1871, Paris, Seuil, coll. "Points", 1981.

Bertrand TILLIER, “The Paris Commune: a revolution without painting? ", The Orsay Museum Review, no 10, spring 2000, p. 70-83.


1. "New incident at the Show", Le Figaro, Wednesday April 22, 1885, signed J. V. A second painting is refused, that of Jules Garnier, In the act, because the scene of adultery depicted "may offend families."

2. “Exhibition of the painting by Mr. Boutet de Monvel at the Figaro », Le Figaro, Friday May 8, 1885, unsigned. The newspaper explains that the painting will be exhibited on the ground floor of the hotel du Figaro, at the end of the large subscription hall.

3. With the exception, of course, of the painters who, under the Commune, will be part of the Federation of Artists of Paris, chaired by Gustave Courbet.

To cite this article

Myriam TSIKOUNAS, "Anti-republican charge"

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