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Title: The siege of Paris.
Author : MEISSONIER Jean-Louis-Ernest (1815 - 1891)
School : Romanticism
Creation date : 1870
Date shown: 1870
Dimensions: Height 53.5 - Width 70.5
Technique and other indications: Oil painting on canvas
Storage place: Orsay Museum website
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web
Picture reference: 92DE373 / RE 1249
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski
Publication date: November 2014
The siege of Paris memorial
Decreed on September 19, 1870, the siege lasted until the armistice of January 28, 1871. The Parisian troops attempted a few sorties at Le Bourget, Champigny and Buzenval. They result in failures and heavy human losses which deeply affect public opinion demoralized by inaction.
A siege memorial
As early as 1870, Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) sketched a painting which he resumed in 1884 and designed as a memorial to the unknown or famous dead at the siege of Paris. The critic Henri Delaborde described it as a "jumble of deaths of all ages and all conditions" (1892). In this commemorative and honorary vein, the painter explained: “I wanted to make a sort of heroic symphony of France. "
The painting is built on the opposition between the central figure of the City of Paris - an imposing woman in her mourning veils, wearing a lion's skin signifying her courage and her hand resting on a sword - and the specter of the Hideous and gaunt starvation, rising from the smoky darkness, accompanied by the predatory Prussian eagle. At the foot of the Parisian incarnation lie many wounded, dead and dying, national guards, mobiles, soldiers, sailors ... who tell of the massive losses of the siege.
The illustrious dead
If Meissonier favors the interweaving of anonymous bodies symbolizing the suffering of the people, he does not forget the illustrious deaths of exemplary value.
In the foreground and in the entourage of the feminine allegory, the artist has several mortuary portraits. In the lower right corner lies Colonel Dampierre, identifiable by his red scarf: his death at Bagneux in October 1870, while leading his men on a reconnaissance mission, aroused popular commotion. To this hero of the siege, Meissonier added Captain Néverlée, leader of a battalion of snipers killed at Villiers, whom he represented crushed under a wounded horse. At the foot of the figure of Paris, the recumbent figure of Colonel Franchetti recalls that he was mortally wounded when leaving the Marne (November 30).
But above all, the artist wanted to pay tribute to the painter Henri Regnault, who fell in Buzenval during the last attempt to liberate the capital. Kneeling against the flank of allegory that protects him by lifting a part of his veil, Regnault embodies the talented and promising youth that defeat has swallowed up.
- tricolour flag
- War of 1870
- heroic figure
- Paris Headquarters
Bernard NOËL, Municipality dictionary, 2 vol., Paris, Flammarion, coll. "Champs", 1978.
COLLECTIVE, Meissonier, catalog of the exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Paris, RMN, Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1993.
To cite this article
Bertrand TILLIER, "The memorial of the siege of Paris"