Ironically entitled ‘Französiche Treue’ (‘French loyalty’), Johann Michael Volz’s ink-drawn cartoon comprises two halves showing Paris on consecutive days marking the start of the ‘Hundred Days’.
On 19 March French soldiers swear unswerving allegiance to King Louis XVIII, intending to defend him and his throne to their “last drop of blood”. On the very next day they bow before Napoleon, cheering him as he enters Paris on horseback and calling “away with Bourbons!”
This shift in army loyalties was a pivotal moment in Napoleon’s return to power. With its somewhat simplified, sequential account, Volz's cartoon reflects ethnic stereotypes of the French as duplicitous and fickle. These stereotypes are also visible in a range of autobiographical texts by German writers as eminent as Friedrich Schlegel and Heinrich von Kleist.
Produced in Leipzig, a centre of German printing and publishing, Volz’s satire may well have resonated with bitter memories of the (then recent) Battle of Leipzig (1813). Napoleon had lost that battle, but it had left up to 110,000 dead, had seen the French occupation of German towns, had been hugely destructive and costly, and had served to amplify anti-French sentiments and galvanize feelings of burgeoning German nationalism, not least in and around Leipzig.