The Objects

29th Mar 1815

Source: Rijksmuseum, with permission. Catalogue reference: FMH 6060-F

‘The Jacobins Undressing Napoleon’

Contributed by: Annie Jourdan

The appointment of a former Jacobin radical revolutionary, Lazare Carnot, as Minister of the interior on 20 March, and Napoleon's abolition of the slave trade on 29 March 1815 were just two of the 'liberal' measures the Emperor undertook during the 100 Days. Not everyone interpreted them favourably, as this Dutch print shows...

‘The Jacobins undressing Napoleon’ [De Jacobijnen kleeden Napoleon Uydt] is a Dutch caricature from 1815 by Wijnand Esser (1779-1860), painter, illustrator and engraver, who worked successively in Groningen, La Haye and Amsterdam. Two centuries on, Esser is still remembered because of his impressive series of anti-Napoleonic caricatures, which all date from the Hundred Days. The time was ripe. Inspired by the British who had never stopped ridiculing ‘little Boney’, Spanish, Russian and German caricaturists all tried to outdo each other from 1812-1813 onwards, multiplying their satires against Napoleon; after Waterloo all of Europe joined in.

It is rare, however, to find a print that transforms the Emperor of the French into a partisan – or victim – of the Jacobins. In choosing this angle, Esser interprets the Hundred Days as a return to the radical period of the French Revolution, and above all, as a victory for French extremists – especially Lazare Carnot – over Napoleon. Was this prompted by the federates of 1814 and by the appointment of Carnot to the Ministry of the Interior? Possibly, but the image shows above all the trauma experienced during this period by the Dutch, who were forced to become French in 1810, and who consequently felt the irresistible need to belittle the man responsible. To read this entry in its original French, click on further information.

Geolocation

“Les Jacobins déshabillent Napoléon” [De Jacobijnen kleeden Napoleon Uydt] est une caricature néerlandaise des années 1814-1815, réalisée par Wijnand Esser (1779-1860), peintre, dessinateur et graveur, qui a travaillé successivement à Groningue, La Haye et Amsterdam. Esser a survécu à l’oubli des siècles en raison de sa série impressionnante de caricatures antinapoléoniennes, qui toutes datent des Cent-Jours. Le temps s’y prêtait. Inspirés des Britanniques qui n’avaient cessé de ridiculiser le petit ‘Boney’, Espagnols, Russes et Allemands ont rivalisé de zèle, à partir de 1812-1813, et multiplié les satires contre Napoléon. Après Waterloo, tous les Européens les ont rejoints. Rares pourtant sont ceux qui ont transformé l’empereur des Français en un partisan – victime – des Jacobins. Par ce biais, Esser interprète les Cent-Jours comme un retour à la période radicale de la Révolution, et surtout, comme une victoire des extrémistes français – de Carnot, en particulier, sur Napoléon. Est-ce dû aux fédérés de 1814 et à la nomination de Carnot au ministère? Cela se pourrait, mais l’image dévoile avant tout le traumatisme éprouvé durant la période par les Néerlandais, contraints en 1810 de devenir français, et l’irrésistible besoin d’en rabaisser le responsable.


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