An Exuberant Executioner

As 80,000 crowded into the square to watch the execution of Louis XVI, they cannot have been unaware that the guillotine sat where a statue of Louis XV had been. Here Sanson, the executioner, snatches the detached head of Louis XVI to show to the crowd. He leans forward with approving eagerness. If the head of the King was the most recognizable old regime symbol, then the demise of that symbolic system becomes now complete. Waving on a pike, facing the King, is a Phrygian cap, now no longer placed on his head, as in other prints. In this way the engraver indicates a final severance of a complicated compromise.

Source: mfr 84.477

Image from: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Exploring the French Revolution
American Social Productions, Inc. A rich site full of original documents and interpretative essays. The principal authors are Lynn Hunt and Jack Censer.


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Last update: July 3, 2003
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