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The zenith of French glory; -the pinnacle of liberty

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1851,0901.643

  • Title (object)

    • The zenith of French glory; -the pinnacle of liberty
  • Description

    On the level of the eye, but high above a square in which the guillotine is at work, bodies dangle from lamp-brackets projecting from the wall of a high building on the right. A bishop in his robes and two monks, their hands tied, hang close together from the horizontal bar. On the lantern sits a ragged, bare-legged sansculotte playing a fiddle, looking down with smiling triumph at the crowd; he is in back view, his bony right foot planted on the head of the dead bishop. On his cap are the words 'Ca ira'. He wears a bag-wig and two daggers dripping blood are thrust through his belt. To the bracket is tied the bishop's crozier, surmounted by the cap of 'Libertas'. In the wall immediately behind is a crucifix in a niche; to this is affixed a placard: 'Bon Soir Monsieur'; at its foot are a skull and cross-bones. From another projecting lantern in the middle distance hangs a judge in his robes between the scales and sword of Justice, similarly suspended.
    The high scaffold is surrounded by a sea of bonnets-rouges, waving exultantly as the guillotine falls on Louis XVI. A ragged and grinning sansculotte hauls at the wheel which releases the blade (on which is a crown). From the guillotine flies a tricolour flag inscribed 'Vive l'Égalité (cf. BMSat 8292, &c). Ragged sansculottes holding spears stand on the scaffold. The windows of the adjoining houses are crowded with spectators. Above their roofs a church dome (? 'l'Assomption') is on fire. Beneath the title: 'Religion, Justice, Loyalty, & all the Bugbears of Unenlighten'd Minds, Farewell!' 12 February 1793
    Hand-coloured etching and engraving

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  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1793
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 350 millimetres
    • Width: 248 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Lettered with artist's name, title, text within image and publication line: "Js. Gy. desn. et fect. -pro bono publico- / Pubd. Feby. 12th. 1793, by H. Humphrey, No 18 Old Bond Street".
  • Curator's comments

    (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VII, 1942)
    For the death of Louis XVI see BMSat 8297, &c. For the design cf. BMSat 8301.
    Grego, 'Gillray', p. 164 (copy), where the title is: 'View in Perspective [From the 1851 reissue (supplementary volume); not in the 1830 reissue.]; the Zenith . . . [&c.]'. Reprinted, 'G.W.G.', 1830. Reproduced, Fuchs, p. 144; Veth, p. 47.

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  • Bibliography

    • BM Satires 8300 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British XVIIIc Mounted Roy)

  • Exhibition history

    1989 May-Sep, BM, Shadow of the Guillotine: Britain and French Revolution
    1990 Jan-Mar, Manchester, Whitworth AG, Britain and French Revolution
    1990 Jun-Sep, Vizille, Mus/Rev Francaise, Britain and French Revolution

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1851

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number

    1851,0901.643

FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). 12 February 1793  Hand-coloured etching and engraving

FOR DESCRIPTION SEE GEORGE (BMSat). 12 February 1793 Hand-coloured etching and engraving

Image description

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