Rouget de Lisle composing the Marseillaise

Rouget de Lisle composing the Marseillaise

To close

Title: Rouget de Lisle composing the Marseillaise (?)

Author : PINELLI Auguste (1823 -)

Creation date : 1875

Date shown: April 25, 1792

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Museum of the French Revolution, Vizille website

Contact copyright: © Museum of the French Revolution, Vizille

Picture reference: MRF 1974-261

Rouget de Lisle composing the Marseillaise (?)

© Museum of the French Revolution, Vizille

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

On April 20, 1792, France in revolution went to war against the Europe of the coalition monarchs. Touched by the baron's remark, the captain of the genius Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, poet and musician in his spare time, composed during the night of April 25 to 26 the words and music of the War song for the army of the Rhine. They also give it its name, Hymn of the Marseillais then The Marseillaise, which became national song by the decree of July 14, 1795 (26 Messidor Year III) which, however, was not definitively applied until February 14, 1879.

Image Analysis

The subject and the exact date of this painting are not definitively established. However, it can reasonably be argued, following Philippe Bordes, that the officer sitting at his desk, pen in hand, inspired and fascinated by the allegory of a victorious France, represents Rouget de Lisle on the verge of composing the Rhine army war song, which will soon become the French national anthem under the name of Marseillaise. The allegory, source of inspiration and motivation of the young captain, points to a luminous inscription - PRO PATRIA - and makes appear before the eyes of the poet a scene of military charge. The painting is punctuated by the colors of the tricolor which respond to each part of the standard proudly held by a victorious France stripped bare and determined to act on the course of revolutionary history. In addition to the patriotic and poetic inspiration, the allegory also marks by its slender position and its expressive face the revolutionary military combat, the country in danger, the foreign armies at the borders and the volunteers, to which the officer haranguing his men respond and Rouget de Lisle's saber resting against a chair. The ensemble composition offers a poetic vision of the creative moment while emphasizing the patriotic elements of a song emblematic of the revolutionary period as well as of social and political struggles throughout the 19th century.


Republican ideal, revolutionary ardor and symbolism blend in this canvas to give to the subject and especially to its source of inspiration - The Marseillaise - all its patriotic dimension. First modern national anthem, The Marseillaise plays a pioneering role in the manifest expression of national consciousness. Despite a double dimension - revolutionary and national - which has earned it a sometimes ambivalent image, this song was definitely consecrated as a national anthem with the advent of the Third Republic and the celebration of the centenary of 1789. In addition to this cyclical aspect, the painting perfectly illustrates the role of this song in the military exploits of the revolutionary French armies, as Olivier mentioned in 1820 in his Critical and military history of the wars of the Revolution : “The generations to come will be astonished to see songs appearing among the causes of military success, but it remains true that these verses, full of energy and patriotism, accompanied by the most martial music , animated an ardent youth, contributed to facilitate the levies, ignited the courage of the soldiers and made them support the privations with as much gaiety as they faced the dangers. ”

  • allegory
  • tricolour flag
  • revolutionary wars
  • music
  • nationalism


Chantal GEORGEL and Robert DELBART Marseillaise, Marseillaise: anthology of the various adaptations since 1792 Paris, Recherches-Midi, 1992.Frédéric ROBERT The Marseillaise Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1989.Philippe BORDES Museum of the French Revolution, catalog of paintings, sculptures and drawings Paris, RMN, 1996.

To cite this article

Pascal DUPUY, "Rouget de Lisle composing the Marseillaise"

Video: Marseillaise u0026 Contre Marseillaise