- Museum number
- Object: La chute du despotisme. The downfall of despotism
A symbolical representation of the fall of the Bastille. The inscriptions, in incorrect French, are translated beneath the design, here given in brackets. On the right is a portion of the building, still intact, with a lowered drawbridge on which stand two emaciated prisoners with long beards and talons for nails clad only in scanty draperies. They address Orléans, who stands, with extended arms saying, "*Regardez Mes amis les effet louables [sic] d'aristocracie! (*Behold, my friends, the lamentable, effects of Aristocracy)". A prisoner exclaims, clasping his hands, "†Oh! Quel luminaire glorieux! (†Hail, thou glorious luminary!)". On the roof sits Liberty with the staff and cap of 'Libertas', on a circular pedestal inscribed 'Montesquieu, Raynal, Voltaire, Rousseau'. At her feet stand an officer and a civilian displaying Liberty to those below; they are presumably Lafayette and Necker. All three are irradiated. On the ground below, Louis XVI kneels in profile to the left with his back to the Bastille, facing with clasped hands the Comte d'Artois and Marie-Antoinette enclosed in a setting sun (of tyranny), which sinks below the level of the ground; round its disk are instruments of torture: chains, scourges, an axe, a wheel, a harrow. Artois, stamping and clasping his forehead in despair exclaims, "*Helas! Artois miserable Q'un Sortie est le tion! (*Miserable Artois, what an exit's thine.)" The Queen says to Louis, "†Renvoyez vos troupes au plus vit nous avons perdu (†Send back your Troops - all is over)". Behind the King the attackers of the Bastille, all in regimentals, with a flag inscribed 'Libertas', are fighting at close quarters with the garrison; muskets are being fired and sabres used. 14 August 1789
- Production date
Height: 461 millimetres
Width: 535 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M.Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', VI, 1938)
The print well represents the attitude towards the fall of the Bastille which (in France and abroad) became a symbol of the aspirations of the Revolution. For prints relating to it see de Vinck, Nos. 1533-1722. The facts had little relation to the symbolism: the governor surrendered on a promise of safety for himself and the small garrison, but was murdered. What little fighting was done was by deserters from the 'Gardes Français'. See Flammermont, 'La Journée du 14 Juillet 1789', 1892; C. D. Hazen, 'The French Revolution', 1932, Chap. IX. For the seven prisoners cf. de Vinck, No. 1628. One of the aged prisoners depicted is probably J. F. X. Whyte, known as Count Whyte de Melville, b. Dublin 1730, transferred 15 July 1789 to the asylum at Charenton. Alger, 'Englishmen in the French Revolution', 1889, pp. 10, 333. See also BMSats 7160, 7546, 7548, 7558, 7561, 7634, 7665, 7678, 7685.
Similar in manner to BMSats 7554, 7632.
- 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
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This was lot 45 in the 1925 Crawford sale; unsold and subsequently presented to the BM.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number