- Museum number
- Object: The Arms of France.
The centre of the design is an oval enclosed in a buckled garter, inscribed 'The Sun of the French Constitution', containing the 'Arms of France': a guillotine, dripping with blood, and irradiated by a large sun, partly below the horizon. The supporters are an important part of the design: dexter, a seated ape; sinister, a very rampant tiger; each holds a tricolour flag fringed with gold, and inscribed respectively 'Atheism', 'Desolation'. The ape wears a tricolour sash and a large bonnet rouge, forming a fool's cap, trimmed with bells and tricolour cockade. He sits on two thick volumes: 'Rosseau' [sic] and 'Voltaire', beneath which is a pamphlet: 'Tom Paine' [see BMSat 9240]. The crest is a boar. From the garter hangs an oval medallion or cameo, with the head of Bonaparte, cadaverous and sinister, in profile to the left., and having the inscription: 'And God made Buonapartè, and rested from his labours'; 'Vide French Bishops Address to the First Consul 1803'. The medallion has a background of foliage with pendent fleurs-de-lis.
Below the medallion is an oval tablet with the inscription: 'Gallic Fraternity. \ - Spain, Inchain'd - \ - Holland, Plunder'd, - \ - Switzerland, Ruin'd; - \ - Italy, Destroy'd. - \ France, in Slavery.' Scrolls issuing from this extend symmetrically across the design, and form a base for the supporters; inscription : 'Invasion - Plunder \ And Destruction.'
The Arms have an elaborate setting or background: Below are victims of the guillotine - piles of bleeding heads with a scroll: 'Death is an eternal Sleep'. On the left are the decollated heads of women and infants with a rosary and open book: 'Ave Maria'. These heads are comparatively few, and behind them ls a heavily barred dungeon window flanked by shackles and inscribed 'Toussaint'. On the r. the heads are much more numerous, and form a pile which balances the window. The foreground heads include a bishop, from whom a mitre has fallen, and a turbaned Moslem (cf. BMSat 10062).
Above, the background is a piece of drapery framed by festooned tricolour curtains which form a border to the design. On the red stripes of the tricolour are the names of 'French Worthies'. Upper margin: (l.) 'Robespierre', 'Marat', 'Fouché', (r.) 'Buonaparte', 'Talleyrand', 'Cambaceres'. Side margins (l.): 'Barras Massena', 'Reubell', 'Rapp', 'Mengaud', 'Lepaux', 'Thibaudeau', 'Boisy [sic] d'Anglas'; (r.) 'Sieyès', 'Barrere', 'Tallien', 'Carnot', 'Lannes', 'Jambon' [sic] 'St André', 'Menou', 'Junot'. 6 September 1803
- Production date
Height: 360 millimetres
Width: 252 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VIII, 1947)
The satire attacks both the 'dechristianisation' of 1793, and the Concordat see BMSat 9866. A decree of 9 Oct. 1793 ordered that over the gate of cemeteries should be inscribed 'La mort est un sommeil eternel', see BMSat 8350. On 7 June 1803 Napoleon issued a circular letter to Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops asking them to offer up prayers for success of the war against England. 'Cobbett's Ann. Reg.' iii. 902. In the issue of 9 July the London newspapers are attacked for saying: 'those very bishops who had been fed by us, were now praying for the success of the French against England'. Ibid. iv. 24. See also pp. 95, 183. By treachery, Napoleon, determined to re-establish slavery, secured the capture of Toussaint, the negro 'Buonaparte of St. Domingo', and imprisoned him in the fort of Joux, where he died, of the rigours of captivity and climate, 27 Apr. 1803; Wordsworth's sonnet was published in the 'Morning Post', 2 Feb. 1803. See A. Nemours, 'Hist. de la captivité et de la mort de Toussaint Louverture', 1929. The symbolism of ape and tiger appears to be traditional. [Voltaire to Mme Deffand, 21 Nov. 1766: .'Your nation is divided into two species: the one of idle monkeys who mock at everything; and the other of tigers who tear.' See BMSat 8350, 'Tyger Marat' and 'Monkey Le Pelletier'. Cf. 'Gent. Mag.' 1805, p. 159.] Cf. BMSat 10058. For other heraldic satires on Napoleon see BMSats 10286, 11057, &c.
Broadley, ii. 233 f.
The print was advertised by Hatchard in the Morning Post, 22 September 1803 at 2 shillings coloured.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2015 Feb-Aug, BM, Rm 90, Bonaparte and the British
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number