- Museum number
- Object: Chute de l'arbre de Cracovie
The fall of the Cracow Tree; men gathered outside the Café de Foy in the Palais-Royal look on as one of their companions lies crushed under the weight of the fallen tree; they display various emotions; on the right, a man has fallen to his knees in horror, while behind him another rushes to help their unfortunate friend; on the left, a gentleman looks through a monocle while others appear amused by the scene: the trapped man has lost both hat and wig in the accident, exposing his bald head to mockery
- Production date
- 1760-1781 (circa)
Height: 237 millimetres (trimmed)
Width: 312 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Dated from 1781 according to the IFF. The Hennin catalogue gives the print a date of 1760 on stylistic grounds, but the date must be after the fall of the tree in 1779 (see below).
The "Cracow Tree" was a chestnut tree in the Palais-Royal, and a noted gathering point for newsmongers eager to exchange gossip, opinions or news. Its name is believed to be a pun on the verb 'craquer', meaning to spread falsehood. The Mercure for January 1751, p.118, carried an announcement of a new caricature titled 'Les Nouvellistes', showing figures reading at the foot of "what has been called for some time 'L'arbre de Cracovie'" (this was probably the etching by Gabriel de Saint Aubin; for a later print on the same theme see the catalogue 'French caricature and the French revolution', Grunwald Center, UCLA, 1989, cat.11).
The tree partly fell in June 1779, crushing several people. It was pulled down during the redesign of the Palais-Royal in the early 1780s.
The tree is mentioned in 'Mémoires de M. Goldoni pour servir à l'histoire de sa vie et à celle de son théâtre' (Paris: Veuve Duchesne, 1787), volume 3, p. 243-244; the author indicates the removal of the tree was met with anger - he mentions 'des dames prêtes à pleurer (...) des hommes en fureur; tout le monde criait contre le destructeur'. The tree is also the subject of a poem by De Beaumont ('Les Adieux de l'arbre de Cracovie', La Haye, 1781). See also Hennin 9839.
In the background is Café de Foy, a famous coffee-house located in the Palais-Royal. Camille Desmoulins's call to arms, which led to the storming of La Bastille, occured there.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number