Imaging the French Revolution Discussion
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B. Here Joan Landes and Vivian Cameron consider the two images of the assassination of Foulon. They make a gendered analysis of these prints which encourages the notion that women, for print makers, can express fanaticism and all the worst of the crowd. The difference in the prints creates an interesting tension in their analyses.

The enthusiastically gesturing woman occupies center stage in the anonymous print [Image 2]. She is positioned between Foulon’s headless corpse and his head, which is raised aloft on a pike. Indeed, a quick glance suggests that the woman’s outstretched hand is balancing the pike. The barking dog in the foreground echoes the woman’s wild enthusiasm. Her dress, gestures, behavior and location underscore her place among the common people. So, if both artists suggest a class division between those directly at the scene and the more respectable onlookers above, the anonymous printmaker emphatically captures the ambivalence that arises when women – and especially women of the popular classes – are directly involved in politics. Since this print recaptures much of the ambivalence of the literate classes' admiration and fear that was suppressed by Rudé’s account of the crowd, then we need to go further and ask, whose ambivalence is being expressed? Perhaps what seems to be the more direct, spontaneous, and immediate representation of the events is also coded, like Prieur’s, with gender as well as class conventions. Here, along with the 19th century literature on the crowd and its revision by George Rudé and Charles Tilly, earlier noted in the essays, a deeper interpretation of these images would require an acquaintance with the scholarship on women’s role in the revolutionary crowd, by Albert Soboul, Dominique Godineau, Harriet Applewhite and Darline Gay Levy, among others.2 Finally, we might ask whether Prieur is trying, somewhat in the manner of Rudé and in response to 18th century versions of Le Bon or Taine, to legitimate the people’s role in the Revolution by distancing the viewer from a more direct view of/confrontation with the crowd’s actions and by simultaneously excising any traces of the crowd’s female members and emphasizing its masculine character?

1 On the theme of enthusiasm in philosophy, culture and the visual arts, see Mary Sheriff’s important new work, Moved by Love: Inspired Artists and Deviant Women in Eighteenth-Century France (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).
2 See Albert Soboul, The Sans-Culottes: The Popular Movement and Revolutionary Government 1793-1794, trans. Rémy Inglis Hall (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972); Dominique Godineau, The Women of Paris and their French Revolution, trans. Katherine Streip (Stanford, Ca.: Stanford University Press, 1988); and Harriet B. Applewhite and Darline Levy, “Women, Radicalization, and the Fall of the French Monarchy”; in their edited collection Women and Politics in the Age of the Democratic Revolution (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1990).

Subject: RE: on gender, class, and violence
Posted By: Vivian Cameron
Date Posted: July 26, 2003, 3:22 PM

I really appreciated Joan's analysis, particularly her comments about enthusiasm and fanaticism; female enthusiasm and violence; and the ambivalence about women involved in politics. This is a case where having both prints in front of us helps. In the Prieur [Image 31], in addition to the female spectators in the mid-ground of the composition and those found in the windows above the crowd, there are a few women, distinguished by their caps, mixed into Prieur's crowd [Image 25]. Although they don't figure amongst the central participants hanging Foulon, they are, as I've stated in my essay, complicit members of this crowd, as indeed are the female spectators (beneath the awning on the right) who seem to be about 15 feet away from the man with rope. This print was executed in 1792, and it may well be that Prieur was trying to legitimate the people's role in the Revolution, but I think that people, according to Prieur, would include both women and men. (Prieur did two prints celebrating the women's march to and from Versailles, for instance). One way in which he tried to concretize eventsthroughout the entire series of the Tableaux historiques de la Révolution françaisewas to be precise about setting, generally providing a panoramic view of parts of the city, in this case of the Place de Grève. In many cases, that distances the reader/spectator of the image from the more horrific aspects of the action.

In the anonymous print [Image 2], the reader/spectator is a witness close-up to the violence performed not only by men but by a central figure of a woman, holding a paving stone, and mirroring the male figure (back to us) on the left side. But she is more prominent because she is seen head-on and she is centralized. The scene is made horrific because the corpse being stoned is a headless corpse. And it is even more horrific because one of the protagonistsa central oneis a woman. We could try to read this as equal-opportunity violence but I think Joan is right to suggest inter-connections between female enthusiasm/ fanaticism/violence.

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