Louis XVI, King of the French


This fascinating print, likely produced before the King’s flight from Paris, takes the Louis XVI of the old regime and makes him a revolutionary with the addition of the Phrygian cap. While the engraver’s intention remains absolutely unknown, contemporaries might have seen this as mocking Louis’s new position in the Revolution. Others, less cynical, might have seen an attempt to create a... Read More »

Louis XVI, King of the French, born 23 August 1754.


Early in the Revolution, LaFayette was among the most visible and popular leaders, in part because of his participation in the American revolution and his relationship to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others. Further, though noble, he had been sympathetic to the Third Estate. By entwining Louis and LaFayette, this image seeks to legitimize the commander’s authority, but also to give... Read More »

Louis’s Separation from His Family


After hearing the verdict, the King was allowed a final evening with his family, whom he had not seen for almost a month during the trial. Twice on the evening of 20 January the King met with his wife, his son, and a daughter. For about an hour and three–quarters all told, they visited. Only at this time, three days after the verdict, was the family told of the King’s sentence. This led to a... Read More »

Madame de Beaumer, Editorial, Journal des Dames (March 1762)


Madame de Beaumer (d. 1766) was the first of three women editors of the Journal des Dames, a newspaper founded in Paris in 1759 to encourage women to write seriously. Little is known about her, perhaps because she was a Calvinist and Calvinists in France had to marry and baptize their children clandestinely. In this editorial and in many others, Beaumer defended her sex against its detractors... Read More »

March of the Powers Allied against France


This engraving uses classical figures to depict allegorically an alliance of Prussia, Britain, and Austria, represented as "Tyranny, Hypocrisy, and Pride," who seek to divide the map of France among themselves, while the French Nation prepares to resist so as to bring peace and tranquility to all of Europe.

Marie Antoinette as a Serpent


The Queen, never popular to begin with in France, also bore the brunt of popular anger in 1792, as seen in these images of the King, Queen, and elsewhere the entire royal family, as animals. One wonders if this dehumanization of the King and Queen might explain why they became such lightning rods for criticism and, moreover, why the entire royal family would eventually be excluded from any... Read More »

Montesquieu, "The Spirit of the Laws"


In The Spirit of the Laws published in 1748, Montesquieu took a less playful tone. Rather than lampooning French customs as he did in The Persian Letters, he offered a wide–ranging comparative analysis of governmental institutions. He argued that the type of government varied depending on circumstances. This idea might not seem very radical today, but in the eighteenth century it implied that... Read More »

Montesquieu’s The Persian Letters (1721)


Charles–Louis de Sécondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu (1689–1755), was born into a family of noble judges near Bordeaux. He published The Persian Letters anonymously because he feared that his criticisms of the recently deceased Louis XIV might get him into trouble with government officials. The novel made him an overnight sensation. He sold his position as a judge and devoted himself... Read More »

Moreau, "Principles of Monarchy" (1773)


Jacob–Nicolas Moreau wrote his "lessons of morality, politics and law" for the instruction of the Dauphin. Throughout the 200–page book, Moreau defends the power of the King to rule France without opposition. In this passage, he emphasized that the current King must be actively involved in governing and could no longer inspire respect from his subjects merely by occupying the throne, as had... Read More »

Thumbnail of boy posing with bicycle on a city street

New York Public Library Digital Collections

The NYPL Digital Collection provides access to over 755,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities, including illuminated manuscripts, vintage posters, illustrated books, and printed ephemera.