The French Revolution

One General: Two Sensationalized Views
Revolutionary Tradition and Les Mis
Revolution 1789
--The Monarchy
--Tennis Court Oath
--Fall of the Bastille
--October Days
--Declaration of War
--Palace Invaded
--Louis XVI
--Reign of Terror
-- Fall of Robespierre
--At war
1789 in Les Miserables
--The Terror
--The People
--The Students
--The Monarchy
--Place de Concord
--Notre Dame
Daily Sites
--Street Names
--Children's Names and Games
Works Consulted





 Caricature of Napoleon, Issac Cruikshank, 1810
  Napoleon at the Bridge of Arcola, Baron Gros


Cruikshank and Baron Gros
  • Isaac Cruikshank was a Scottish man who lived during the late 18th and early 19th century. He was known as an outstanding artist and was in demand as a printmaker. He did not have strong political opinions: in some prints he praises the French Revolution, while in others he attacks reformers such as Thomas Paine. This caricature of Napoleon does not reflect the artist's opinion, but rather captures the national sentiment towards the successful Italian general.
  • Baron Gros met Napoleon in 1793 when he was appointed Napoleon's official battle painter. He followed Napoleon throughout Europe during his military campaigns, and recorded some of the most stirring images of the Napoleonic Era. His elaborate painting characterizes Napoleon as the successful general that he was, and reflects the adoring opinion of both the artist and the French people.
  • These two works display drastically different opinions of Napoleon. Both show him on a battlefield and both portray him as a general, but the caricature mocks Napoleon, while the painting elevates him to the status of quasi-deity.
  • In this caricature, Isaac Cruikshank portrays Napoleon as a toy solider fighting at Toulon. Napoleon is located in the middle of the painting, surrounded by dead soldiers. He is taking no heed of the carnage surrounding him and is setting off a cannon, intent on continuing his battle. The use of the cannon makes Napoleon seem like a coward: he does not fight man to man, but hides behind heavy artillery. In this work, Napoleon is small, unfeeling, and cowardly. Even the tricolor waving behind Napoleon mocks him. The flag is tattered and dirty and suggests that the nation it represents is in a similar state. This is exactly the image that the English people of the early 19th century wanted to see as Napoleon threatened their national security. It was easier for them to mock Napoleon than to acknowledge him as a significant threat, as an emporer or as a general.
  • The painting by Baron Gros presents an entirely different view of Napoleon: a victorious and virtuous general. Napoleon dominates the canvas, and is clothed resplendently in the colors of France. In one hand, he carries the tricolor and in the other, he holds an unsheathed sword. He does not gaze at the viewer; instead, he is looking backwards, beckoning his troops toward victory. This painting portrays Napoleon as heroic and idealizes his success on the battlefield. This was painted before Napoleon seized power in France, and does not represent him as emporer. It serves as propaganda, to persuade the French that Napoleon is a good leader.
  • These images represent the drastically differing views of Napoleon in Europe at the turn of the century. The French idolized Napoleon as a general; he was given credit for saving the war. By 1810, Napoleon was both an emporer and a successful general. European nations feared Napoleon and consequently mocked him.