The national loans of 1916 and 1917

The national loans of 1916 and 1917

  • 2e loan from National Defense.

    ROBAUDI Alcide (1850 - 1928)

  • Subscribe to the national Société Générale loan.

    REDON Georges (1869 - 1943)

2e loan from National Defense.

© Contemporary Collections

Subscribe to the national Société Générale loan.

© Contemporary Collections

Publication date: June 2006

Historical context

The Great War, a test of nations and populations

From the first weeks of the war, in the fall of 1914, the reserves of ammunition and supplies of the belligerent armies were exhausted. But the French are being severely tested: the men of working age are at the front, the deaths and injuries are increasing, the deprivation is damaging the morale of the rear. How, under these conditions, to seek national solidarity?

Image Analysis

Money, the sinews of war

The poster, drawn by children's illustrator Robaudi (1850-1928) in 1916, represents the French people who, in procession, come to deposit at Marianne's feet the money they need to continue the war. The parade is led by a peasant in a blue blouse, followed by a thrifty worker, an employee wearing a melon and a bourgeois with a boater. But it is the center of the composition that is impressive: Marianne, motionless, surrounded by the tricolor, palms open, is assimilated to a Madonna. Overhanging, the statue The Marseillaise by François Rude adorns the easily recognizable pillar of the Arc de Triomphe and signals the start of the fighting. The little boy, naked like an angel but armed with a sword and helmeted like a hairy man, completes this Holy Patriotic Trinity.

The second poster, designed by Georges Redon (1869-1943) in 1917, plays on a completely different register, more intimate and less openly warlike. The striking composition opposes living characters, present, and symbolic figures, relegated to a distance. The Alsatian doll, a child's toy and emblem of lost France, smiles face-on and opens her arms, confident in Revenge. Likewise, the hairy bearded medalist who appears in the frame on the wall looks at the viewer, determined and serene. On the contrary, the mother turns her head towards her daughter: her attitude expresses both vulnerability and the desire for protection. Finally, the slogan - "so that your children no longer know the horrors of war, take out the Société Générale national loan" -, tinted with the national colors, concludes this image with a patriotic theme.


From warlike patriotism to the denunciation of the "horrors of war"

The first poster advertises the National Defense loan launched in October 1916, as the murderous Battle of Verdun and the Somme offensive came to an end. It emphasizes the notion of sacrifice, which is also economic: the mobilization is total. The symbols of the Revolution and the Napoleonic conquest must raise an "army of savings" supposed to make money flow in abundance. The main contributors targeted are the peasants, to whom the prejudice of the economy of the "woolen stocking", of unproductive savings remains attached - but who also represent the roots of the nation. This second loan, however, only brought in 10 billion francs and was the least successful of the four launched - proof, no doubt, that the cut between the company behind and the front is real and that an intense propaganda effort is necessary. .

In G. Redon’s poster, the empty bed, with a slightly faded red quilt, occupies the central place and expresses the absence, deprivation, uncertainty, which then plagued the French. This denunciation of the war is however used by a bank, the Société Générale, to guarantee the success of the third loan of the National Defense in October 1917. It brings in a little more than the previous one (10.2 billion francs). . This drawing offers a complete change of dynamic: the Front of Fighters and Lost Provinces seems to support the grieving rear, where everyone is now susceptible to the "horrors of war". Here, the work, more ambiguous than the 1916 poster, lies on the borderline of propaganda and testimony.

  • allegory
  • fraternity
  • War of 14-18
  • Marianne
  • nation
  • nationalism
  • hairy
  • propaganda
  • Republic
  • silver


Jean-Jacques BECKER, The French in the Great War, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1980.

Jean-Jacques BECKER, Serge BERSTEIN, Victories and frustrations, Paris, Le Seuil, 1990.

Jean-Baptiste DUROSELLE, History of the Great War.France and the French (1914-1920), Paris, Richelieu, 1972.

Laurent GERVEREAU, "Image propaganda in France", 1914-1918.

Laurent GERVEREAU and Christophe PROCHASSON, "Themes and modes of representation" in Images of 1917, Nanterre, B.D.I.C., 1987.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The national loans of 1916 and 1917"

Video: THE NATIONAL HOUSING TRUST - Special Loans and Grants Edition