The last moments of Louis XVI

The last moments of Louis XVI

Farewell from Louis XVI to his family at the Temple.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The Convention voted on January 17, 1793 for the death of the king by 361 votes in favor and 360 votes against. "

Image Analysis

The king is seated. The queen, in a pathetic gesture blending horror with revolt, like a new Niobe eager to protect the royal family, surrenders to her fate. Madame Royale collapses against her father's body, and the future Louis XVII desperately kisses the monarch's hand. Madame Elisabeth, sister of the king, falling, imploring hands, on an armchair which she overturns, entrusts herself to God. Father Edgeworth joined in the general excitement by joining hands in a gesture of prayer, Cléry, the king's valet, turns away from the stage to cry, a Temple guard appears, attracted by the cries. A Crucifix, symbol of both the king's piety and his near martyrdom, is prominently placed in front of the window.

Interpretation

This scene was frequently painted by royalist artists. Little known painter, Charles Bénazech made himself towards the end of his life, in the climate of emigration, a specialty of royal martyrology. Widely disseminated through printmaking, his works were the source of popular imagery evoking the "passion" of Louis XVI and his family. Directly inspired by Father Edgeworth's account, Bénazech's concern for historical truth fails to hide his partisan emotion. The lamentations and grief of the royal family are rendered in a deliberately outrageous and pathetic manner. The troubadour taste for the sentimental historical scene, developed under the Restoration, already pierced in the design of this 1793 painting, despite a certain awkwardness in the execution which does not allow this work to be placed on the same level as Fleury's compositions. -Richard who will pay fervent homage to Madame Elisabeth under the reign of Louis XVIII. The National Museum of the Palace of Versailles keeps another work by Bénazech, retracing the following episode in the king's life: Louis XVI climbs the scaffold, January 21, 1793 (M.V. 5832).

  • Bourbons
  • fall of royalty
  • Convention
  • Louis XVI
  • Marie Antoinette
  • king's trial
  • royalism

Bibliography

François FURET, Denis RICHET The French Revolution Paris, Fayard, 1965, new edition 1997. Evelyne LEVER Louis XVI Paris, Fayard, 1985. Mona OZOUF "Trial of the King" in François FURET, Mona OZOUF (dir.), Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution Paris, Flammarion, 1988, reed.coll. "Champs", 1992.Alexis PHILOMENKO The death of Louis XVI Paris, Bortillat, 2000 Collective The French Revolution and Europe 1789-1799 , catalog of the exhibition at the Grand-PalaisParis, RMN, 1989. François FURET, Denis RICHET The French Revolution Paris, Fayard, 1965, new edition 1997. Evelyne LEVER Louis XVI Paris, Fayard, 1985. Mona OZOUF "Trial of the King" in François FURET, Mona OZOUF (dir.), Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution Paris, Flammarion, 1988, reed. coll. "Champs", 1992.Alexis PHILOMENKO The death of Louis XVI Paris, Bortillat, 2000 Collective The French Revolution and Europe 1789-1799 , catalog of the exhibition at the Grand-PalaisParis, RMN, 1989.

To cite this article

Robert FOHR and Pascal TORRÈS, "The last moments of Louis XVI"


Video: Lexécution de Louis XVI