19 Apotheose de J.J. Rousseau

Pierre Gabriel Berthault (1748 – 1819) after Abraham Girardet (1764 – 1823)

Apothéose de J.J. Rousseau. Sa Translation au Panthéon. Le 11 Octobre 1794, ou 20 Vendémaire an 3eme de la République (Apotheosis of J.J. Rouseau. His removal to the Pantheon. 11th October 1794, or 20 Vendémaire, 3rd year of the Republic) , 1798

Etching and Engraving

Published in the series Tableaux historiques de la Révolution française, 1791 – 1817, ( first included in the edition of 1798 )

A notable characteristic of the Tableaux historiques series is the topographical accuracy with which the settings for events are rendered. In this case Giradet’s accuracy can be measured against the building of the Pantheon, whose dome still dominants the Paris skyline today. In other instances the prints are rendered doubly interesting to architectural historians because they remain valuable records of places long since demolished: the Abbey prison, for example, was destroyed in 1854. Yet the artists involved with the project were not above the subtle manipulation of their settings for artistic or ideological effect. In this instance the size of the Pantheon is accentuated by the way Giradet has aligned different elements such as the statue of Rousseau in the foreground on the same axis as the flag fluttering from the dome so that it the building looms majestically over the foreground scene, and is endowed with an air of grandeur and authority. The skyline drops the nearer it gets to the Pantheon building, which seems all the more massive as a result.

In 1791 Soufflot’s church of Saint Geneviève had been secularised and re-dedicated to the memory of Great Men. The inscription added to the pediment at this point (and legible in Girardet’s design) reads, ‘Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaisante’ – ‘To Great Men, the Fatherland is Grateful’. ’ During the Revolution, a number of ‘Pantheonisations’ were planned, including that of the revolutionary ‘martyrs’ Le Pelletier, Marat, and Bara, (although, because remains could only be translated to the Pantheon ten years after death, none of these were actually carried out). In this instance it is Jean-Jacques Rousseau who is accorded the singular honour of being pantheonised, an event that took place with much fanfare on the 11th October 1794. This print bears witness to the elaborate ceremony that surrounded such an occasion and the huge number of people involved: we see a procession snaking its way to the massive doors of the Pantheon. Typically the communal ceremonies and festivals that punctuated the French revolutionary calendar looked to the world of classical antiquity for visual and ideological inspiration. In this instance note the classical dress worn by those bearing the model of Rousseau seated in the shade of a tree or the Roman-inspired standards carried by others in the procession.

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