- Museum number
- Object: The Apotheosis of Hoche
A complicated and symmetrical design. Hoche, seated on a rainbow which spans a landscape undergoing military devastation, plays a guillotine as if it were a lyre. He is a handsome young man wearing only a cloak and sash in which is a pair of pistols. He has just kicked off his two heavy spurred jack-boots which fall towards the ground and is unconscious of a falling noose which is about to encircle his neck. His head is surrounded by a circular glory of rays which is framed by the winged and decollated heads of Jacobin cherubs shouting hymns of praise; three open books are the 'Marsellois Hymn' flanked by 'Ca Ira'. These cherubs, who completely encircle Hoche, wear bonnets-rouges; blood gushes from their necks.
Above Hoche are three platforms of cloud. The largest, above his head, supports the Jacobin table of the law (resembling French prints of the 'Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen'), which dominates the design. It is in two tables, and on it are inscribed a reversal of the Commandments: 'Thou shalt Murder' [&c.]. This is framed by two fasces from which axes project. Above it is a triangle, enclosing the word 'equality', with a plumb-line to show that it is a level (cf. BMSat 8639). This is framed in a glory whose rays are represented by daggers and bayonets. Three concentric circles of winged heads surround the glory; the heads are of apes, asses, and goats. A monster with webbed wings, hooves, and a tail kneels on each side of the table of the law. That on the left has a heavy body with four heads: goat, ape, ass, and goose. The other has a scaly body with more vicious heads: a mastiff, serpent, crocodile, and a cock with flames darting from mouth and eyes.
Armies of Jacobins, naked except for bonnets-rouges and (in the foreground) huge sabots, frame this central design, the nearer figures resting on the two platforms of cloud just above the head of Hoche. Those on the left are led by victims of the Revolution, who carry placards showing their identity. First come 'Roland the Martyr' and 'Condorcet', holding 'progrès de l'esprit' and a bottle labelled 'Poison'. A man holds 'Recit de mes Perils', his neighbour strangles himself. 'Marat the Martyr' holds a dagger; two quasi-skeletons are 'Pétion starv'd [to] Death' and 'Barbaroux starved to Death'. A man in flames holds a faggot. All hold weapons, and massed undifferentiated heads recede in perspective. All of the corresponding crowd on the right are headless, blood gushing from their necks. They kneel in obeisance to Hoche, wearing sabots; all hold palm-branches and bonnets-rouges.
On the ground beneath the rainbow the republican army is charging unarmed fugitives. In the foreground lie a heap of headless corpses and a pile of heads. Soldiers fire at a prisoner. From the branch of a tree (right) hang two corpses; a sign points to 'la Vendee'. Churches and houses are blazing. A river divides the landscape, fugitives are driven into it, and bodies float down the stream. On the farther (left) side are tiny fugitives; the cottages are still intact. Above the blazing scene a corpse-like Fury strides through the air, a sword of flame in one hand, a bottle of vitriol or poison in the other. Liquid gushes also from her hideous pendent breasts, serpents form her hair, and fire issues from her slavering mouth. She is followed by a swarm of little monsters who, like her, have small webbed wings. These hold firebrands, chains, halters, daggers, &c. As a pendant to these creatures, a swarm of naked and winged Jacobins fly towards the ground on the left of the river, scattering 'Assignats'. 11 January? 1798
Hand-coloured etching and aquatint
- Production date
Height: 500 millimetres
Width: 387 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VII, 1942)
This subject was suggested to Gillray by Frere, who mentions it in a letter (n.d.) to Sneyd of c. Dec. 1797. [It refers to 'The Soldier's Friend', printed in the 'Anti-Jacobin', 11 Dec. 1797.] Bagot, 'Canning and his Friends', i. 143. The sudden death of Hoche on the Rhine, 18 Sept. 1797, was followed by magnificent funeral celebrations in the Champ de Mars; choirs in classical costume sang before his effigy a hymn written for the occasion by Chénier and set to music by Cherubini. Hoche (see Sorel, 'Bonaparte et Hoche en 1797', pp. 243 ff.) defeated the expedition to Quiberon (see BMSat 8669, &c); the massacre of prisoners which followed was due to Tallien: Hoche carried out the pacification of La Vendée. But he was the embodiment of republican animosity towards England and the author of the project of invasion under Tate (see BMSat 8992) and of the invasion of Ireland in 1796. See 'Memoirs of Wolfe Tone', 1827, ii. i4ff., and BMSat 8979, &c. A leaflet (? by Frere) was published by Humphrey to accompany the print: 'The Apotheosis of the French General Hoche'. It purports to be translated from, and probably parodies, 'the original printed in the Rédaction'. It begins: 'The Soul of the Hero arose from the dust, and riding upon the Tri-Coloured Bow of Heaven, tuned his soft Lyre, whilst myriads of Celestials advanced to meet him, and . . . chaunted in Chorus,
He rises! the Hero of the new Republic rises.'
(Not in B.M. A copy is with the Gillray Collection in the House of Lords Library. [Copy acquired since George's publication, see 1994,0227.2)
Grego, 'Gillray', p. 250 (reproduction). "Wright and Evans, No. 219. Reprinted, 'G.W.G.', 1830. Reproduced, Dayot, 'Rév.fr.', p. 289.
- Not on display
- 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
1998 Apr-Aug, Belfast, Ulster Museum, 'Up in Arms'
2001 Jun-Sep, London, Tate Britain, 'Gillray and the Art of Caricature'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number