Louise Michel and her legend

Louise Michel and her legend

  • The arrest of Louise Michel.

    GIRARDET Jules (1856 - 1938)

  • Louise Michel at Satory.

    GIRARDET Jules (1856 - 1938)

To close

Title: The arrest of Louise Michel.

Author : GIRARDET Jules (1856 - 1938)

Creation date : 1871

Date shown: May 24, 1871

Dimensions: Height 45 - Width 37

Technique and other indications: oil painting on wood

Storage place: Saint-Denis Art and History Museum

Contact copyright: © Saint-Denis, art and history museum - Photo I. Andréani

Picture reference: NA 2659

The arrest of Louise Michel.

© Saint-Denis, art and history museum - Photo I. Andréani

To close

Title: Louise Michel at Satory.

Author : GIRARDET Jules (1856 - 1938)

Creation date : 1871

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 40 - Width 31.7

Technique and other indications: Painting also known as: Louise Michel harangue les communards.Oil on wood

Storage place: Saint-Denis Art and History Museum

Contact copyright: © Saint-Denis, art and history museum - Photo I. Andréani

Picture reference: NA 2660

© Saint-Denis, art and history museum - Photo I. Andréani

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The repression of the Communards: the case of Louise Michel

Republican teacher, canteen during the siege of Paris, speaker at the Revolutionary club, ambulance worker and soldier, Louise Michel (1830-1905) seems to have taken an active part in the fighting on the barricades of the Commune.

Through his autobiographies rich in details and anecdotes -Briefs (1886) and The Municipality. History and Memories (1898) in particular - Louise Michel, the anti-authoritarian feminist, helped forge the myth of the “Red Madonna”. "The bullets made the sound of hail from summer thunderstorms," ​​she wrote in her Briefs.

Image Analysis

The surrender of Louise Michel

Having learned that her mother had been arrested in her place, Louise Michel surrendered to the Versailles soldiers, at the risk of being immediately taken up by arms. This is the moment that Jules Girardet (1856-1946) chose to represent in the painting entitled The Arrest of Louise Michel. We see a young woman leading a popular procession. Two armed riders push back the crowd cheering the prisoner with idealized features and ultimately not very resembling.

Working as a pendant, the other work represents in the same format and in identical tones Louise Michel at Satory. The place is not neutral: it is the military camp where the Communards are held by the Versailles troops and where they are executed - like Rossel, Bourgeois and Ferré on November 28, 1871. It is probable that the painter also wanted to do reference to one of Louise Michel's thunderous statements in front of the 6e war council: "What I am asking of you who give yourselves as my judges, it is the field of Satory where our brothers fell ..." In this case, the painter represents the detainee haranguing of the Communards assembled around her . As a counterpoint to the calm, determined and generous face displayed by Louise Michel in The Arrest, Girardet gives him in the scene of Satory an angry air, reinforced by the outstretched right arm and vengeful index finger.

Interpretation

From reality to myth

Both of these works depict rather conventional arrest and detention scenes, as the press engraving has given readers of illustrated newspapers a lot.

However, because it is about Louise Michel, these two paintings cannot be observations of factual reality, but rather a taking into account of the mythical and idealized figure of the “Red Virgin”: her generous commitments and many for Kanaks, women, prisoners and the oppressed will gradually become a libertarian symbol.

Either way, too young and overly idealized effigies don't work as simple portraits. Indeed, their effectiveness is mainly due to the presence of the people associated with their person, through the representation of some effective stereotypes: federates, "Gavroches", women of the people including a mother and her toddler, all in rags and whose the rags match Louise Michel's disparate dress and jacket - acclaimed in the scene of her arrest, listened to with respect and meditation in the image of the Satory camp.

  • communards
  • Municipality of Paris
  • women
  • revolutionary figures
  • feminism
  • Michel (Louise)
  • political opponents
  • Versailles repression

Bibliography

Louise MICHEL, Briefs, [1886], Arles, Gulliver, 1997.

Louise MICHEL, The Municipality, [1898], Paris, Stock, 1978.

Louise MICHEL, I am writing to you from my night. Correspondence 1850-1904, Paris, Paris Editions, 1999.

To cite this article

Bertrand TILLIER, "Louise Michel and her legend"


Video: Louise Michel and the Commune Paul Foot