This amazingly rich sketch by Jacques–Louis David is one of the most famous works from the French revolutionary era. The thrust of the bodies together and toward the center stand for unity. The spectators, including children at the top right, all join the spectators. Even the clergy, so villified later, join in the scene. Only one person, possibly Marat, in the upper left–hand corner, turns... Read More »
The National Assembly also eliminated monasteries during the French Revolution, since monks and nuns had increasingly become figures of ridicule. This image depicts the dissolution of the religious orders, rather than the confiscation of lands, as the crucial element in religious reorganization. It shows "the National Assembly marrying nuns and monks" so they will become productive citizens.... Read More »
This engraving from the Berthault series depicts Stanislas Maillard bravely climbing on a plank over the dry moat surrounding the fortress to accept from one of the soldiers Launay’s "capitulation" of the Bastille.
As 80,000 crowded into the square to watch the execution of Louis XVI, they cannot have been unaware that the guillotine sat where a statue of Louis XV had been. Here Sanson, the executioner, snatches the detached head of Louis XVI to show to the crowd. He leans forward with approving eagerness. If the head of the King was the most recognizable old regime symbol, then the demise of that... Read More »
The case against Olympe de Gouges is worth reading in detail because it is typical of the attacks on those who criticized the authority of the central government that gathered force in the fall of 1793 and continued up to July 1794, when Robespierre fell from power. Gouges, an advocate of increased popular consultation, criticized the National Convention, calling its members ambitious men.... Read More »
The Proceedings of the Old Bailey includes accounts of trials at London's most important court. These were published at the end of each session in an inexpensive form for a popular, rather than a legal, audience. They provide a reliable, although incomplete, account of events and do not record everything that was said. For example, statements by witnesses were frequently summarized or omitted... Read More »
In this extraordinary painting stands a formidable and powerful figure of liberty with her pike and cap. As the title of this work suggests, Liberty appears here as a warrior surveying the field of battle from a commanding height. Furthermore, the cock crowing at the dawn suggests the arrival of an entirely new day.
This is an excerpt from the Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España (The True History of the Conquest of New Spain) by Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492-1581). Díaz was a Spanish conquistador who participated in several military expeditions throughout the Greater Caribbean in the 16th century and served under Hernán Cortés during the campaigns about the Mexica in... Read More »
This is a 17th-century French engraving entitled The True Woman. Although its author and its circulation to the public in general is not precisely known, engravings such as this one were ever more popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the power of the newly-invented printing press to reach the masses became apparent. Engravings are another tool that helps historians gauge... Read More »
The first groups of "brigands" formed in the west in mid–1792, in response most immediately to the call to all citizens to volunteer for the army. In this letter, a local government official, Choudieu, informs the National Convention that the detachment of soldiers it sent to the region has failed to dispel the brigands and asks for more forces, at just the moment when the Prussians have... Read More »