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Hunting in the shadows of the French Revolution

My blog post ahead of my monograph’s impending publication!

Voltaire Foundation

ose-2016-10-50pcResearching prints of the French Revolution can sometimes feel like ghost-hunting.

Unlike other forms of art, such as paintings, which are usually signed, the majority of etchings are authorless. Sometimes, sheer luck, or the right accumulation of clues, can lead you to an artist – a most satisfying conclusion.

This was the case with ‘Dupuis, peintre’, an artist commissioned twice by the Comité de Salut Public to create prints central to my book, Satire, prints and theatricality in the French Revolution. His identity evaded me for several years. I had several candidates for him, and my original thesis, the basis of my book, included this footnote:

Chûte en masse: ainsi l'étincelle electrique de la liberté, renversera tous les trônes des brigands couronnés (François Marie Isidore Queverdo). ‘Chûte en masse: ainsi l’étincelle electrique de la liberté, renversera tous les trônes des brigands couronnés’, by François Marie Isidore Queverdo (Stanford University Libraries).

‘The identity of Dupuis remains mysterious. He could be issued from an illustrious family of engravers, including…

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The Shipwrecked House – Guest Blog by Claire Trévien

Here is a quick glimpse into my ‘other’ life as a poet. I’m about to tour across the UK The Shipwrecked House, a show based on my poetry collection. More details on tour dates here.

It’s such an honour for me to be on Kim Moore’s blog, of which I am a huge fan. As well as being an excellent poet herself, the blog is always full of exciting poems and interesting thoughts both about poetry and brass bands. Highly recommended.

Kim Moore

Evening folks – another extra blog post that I hope will counter the last rather negative and depressing post about The Wordsworth Trust.  This is the first in what I hope will be a random series of guest blog posts.  I’m going to hand over to Claire Trévien in a minute to explain how her first collection ‘The Shipwrecked House’, longlisted in the Guardian First Book awards came to be transformed into a touring show.  This seems an amazing achievement to me – surely the poetry equivalent of a novel being turned into a film?  And if there was a poet that would be likely to do such a thing, it would be Claire who seems always to be doing something exciting with poetry – recently writing a 100 poems in one day to raise money for Refuge for example.

Claire Trévien is one of those people who frequently puts her…

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Popular Reaction to Napoleon’s 100 Days: Print, Satire, Song and Theatre

I was back in the British Library for the first time in a while yesterday having decided over the last few months that I can’t afford a career in French academia. Working long hours for free or a pittance, spending a fortune on travelling and conference fees, not to mention the cost of image rights and publications have taken their toll, so I’m concentrating on the bright lights of poetry…! Yesterday reminded me however of the upside, the sheer joy of finding out new things, of diving headlong into a rabbit hole… I love research, of course I do!

The thing that prompted my return was an unexpected day free of rehearsals for The Shipwrecked House to prepare a talk I agreed to give at a one-day conference next week: Popular Reaction to Napoleon’s 100 Days: Print, Satire, Song and Theatre. The whole day is completely up my alley, as my thing is popular culture! My thesis was on popular culture during the French Revolution, particularly satirical etchings but also songs, plays (both performed and not), pamphlets, etc. What’s new this time around is the Napoleonic setting.

Now, I think I’m a bit territorial about my thesis and will argue until the cows come home that French Revolutionary prints are the best thing.

However.

Goodness me do I love Napoleonic prints too, especially ones featuring the man himself: dressed as Pierrot, riding a lobster, eating snakes, falling off a cliff, being a bossy boots,… They’re gloriously vivid.

For the conference, we’ve each been asked to pick an object from Napoleon’s 100 days (i.e the 100 days in 1815 in which Napoleon escaped from Elba, made a grab at power and was eventually defeated at Waterloo). The one I picked is this splendid print of Napoleon’s return to France:

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Isn’t it great? Even better are the two members of the anxious Bourbon party wearing extinguishers on their heads. It refers to a term, ‘chevaliers de l’éteignoir’ used by the satirical paper Le Nain Jaune to mock those belonging to the old French regime. Quite literally, they are trying to extinguish the flames of enlightenment! Le Nain Jaune was pro-Napoleon so this depiction is rather apt.

Here are some more éteignoirs, just because:

extinguishers

What drew me to this print however is that I recognized in it a leitmotif found in two French Revolutionary prints from 1791:

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Yes, the Standford link will say the print dates from 1792-1794, but this is wrong. The courrier des 83 départements of 3 June 1791 announces it so it pre-dates the Marie-Antoinette print.

Not so flattering, eh? The first one depicts Marie-Antoinette escaping the Tuileries palace, the other Catherine II of Russia taking a conquering stride. Both are rather lewd, in the first the comtesse de la Motte-Valois (of the affair of the diamond necklace) holds up a necklace up Marie-Antoinette’s skirt which is both a reference to the affair and to sexuality (jewels in French refers to female genitalia), Catherine II is bare-breasted, and in both cases everyone is looking up their skirts.

Whereas in the case of Marie-Antoinette and Catherine II female agency is seen as a negative trait to be mocked, it is celebrated in Napoleon. Some things never change, eh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mirabeau meets Voltaire and Rousseau in the underworld

Voltaire Foundation

‘Mais le voilà donc ce prétendu égoïste, cet homme dur, cet impitoyable misanthrope, que ses lâches ennemis déchirent plus que jamais après sa mort!’ (Mirabeau to Marie Thérèse Sophie Richard de Ruffey, marquise de Monnier, on the subject of Rousseau’s acts of kindness during his lifetime.)[1]

Today marks the 223rd anniversary of the death of Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, the comte de Mirabeau. A courter of controversy, Mirabeau is famous for being a nobleman who joined the third estate for the Estates General and became rapidly popular thanks to his oratory skills.[2] He died of a suspected inflammation of the diaphragm, on 2 April 1791, though some did question the rapidity of the illness and wondered if he had been poisoned.[3] Other than for a few individuals, such as Marat, who publicly rejoiced at his passing, Mirabeau’s death seems to have been overall a source of sorrow, provoking numerous displays of affection including prints…

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