Robespierre, incorruptible and dictator

Robespierre, incorruptible and dictator

Maximilien de Robespierre (1758-1794).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Of bourgeois origin, the son of a lawyer and himself a lawyer, Robespierre is one of the great embodiments of the spirit of the Revolution. Despite the uprising of the Commune, he was guillotined the next day.

Image Analysis

In this modest anonymous portrait, Robespierre, represented in a bust, appears to us in the severe attire of the deputies of the Third Estate: a black coat contrasting with a simple white frill and a wig common to most representatives of the third order, such as Mirabeau. This austerity, it should be emphasized, is not so asserted in all the known portraits of Robespierre, a character concerned with respectability and neat to the point of meticulousness (see for example the very elegant full-length painting by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, exhibited at the Salon of 1791, today in a private collection 1, and the bust due to the sculptor Claude-André Deseine 2, kept at the Museum of the French Revolution, at the Château de Vizille). The liveliness of the gaze, the natural authority and the voluntarism of the model are in fact the only real arguments of the portrait painter who attempts here a psychological portrait of the "Incorruptible Defender of the People".

Interpretation

Another portrait of Robespierre "drawn from life" by the engraver Vérité is preserved, with a formalism similar to this one. The legend is: "Maximilien Marie Isidore ROBESPIERRE, Deputy of the province of Artois / Of the superb and formidable enemy oppressor, / Incorruptible friend of the people whom one overwhelms, / He makes shine within the vile factions, / The virtues of Aristide and the soul of the Catons. This explicit reference to the patriotic virtues of ancient Athens and Rome, embodied by their great men, captures better than any other commentary the intention behind such an image: portrait of the soul and manifests political commitment at the cost of renouncing the privileges of the superfluous.

  • Convention
  • deputies
  • States General
  • Be supreme
  • revolutionary figures
  • Jacobinism
  • Mountain people
  • portrait
  • Robespierre (Maximilian of)
  • Terror
  • Third state
  • Rousseau (Jean-Jacques)
  • French Revolution

Bibliography

François FURET, Mona OZOUF “Robespierre”, “Terreur”, “Montagnards”, “Thermidor”, in Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution Paris, Flammarion, 1988, reed. “Champs” collection, 1992. Patrice GUENIFFEY The Politics of Terror, an essay on revolutionary violence Paris Fayard, 2000.CollectiveDossier "Robespierre, portrait of a tyrant" L’Histoire n ° 177, May 1994. From David to Delacroix: French painting from 1774 to 1830 , Catalog of the exhibition at the Grand-Palais Edition of the National Museums, Paris, 1974-1975. The French Revolution and Europe 1789-1799 , Catalog of the exhibition at the Grand-PalaisParis, RMN, 1989.François FURET, Mona OZOUF "Robespierre", "Terreur", "Montagnards", "Thermidor", in Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution Paris, Flammarion, 1988, reed. “Champs” collection, 1992. Patrice GUENIFFEY The Politics of Terror, an essay on revolutionary violence Paris Fayard, 2000.CollectiveDossier "Robespierre, portrait of a tyrant" L’Histoire n ° 177, May 1994. From David to Delacroix: French painting from 1774 to 1830 , Catalog of the exhibition at the Grand-Palais Edition of the National Museums, Paris, 1974-1975. The French Revolution and Europe 1789-1799 , Catalog of the exhibition at the Grand-PalaisParis, RMN, 1989.

To cite this article

Robert FOHR and Pascal TORRÈS, "Robespierre, incorruptible and dictator"


Video: Henry Litolff - Overture Maximilien Robespierre 1856