Soldiers of the First Republic

Soldiers of the First Republic

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Title: Soldiers of the First Republic. Studies.

Author : RAFFET Denis-Auguste-Marie (1804 - 1860)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 37 - Width 46

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage place: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre Museum) / René-Gabriel Ojéda

Picture reference: 02-013127 / RF1976-18

Soldiers of the First Republic. Studies.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre Museum) / René-Gabriel Ojéda

Publication date: March 2012

Historical context

Raffet is best known as a lithographer and recognized as the founding illustrator of the Napoleonic legend. He will be the historiographer of the siege of Rome, during the Italian campaign of 1859.

Image Analysis

The man depicted is bearded, wearing a black cocked hat with a falling red plume. He wears a dark gray coat with red lapels, white breeches and gaiters and waistcoat.

On the left, the soldier is seen from the front, his left leg forward. He holds his rifle in front of him by the barrel and seems to cock it with his right hand.

On the right, the soldier is seen from three quarters, the right leg forward. He leans his rifle on the ground and holds it in his left hand by the bayonet barrel. On the back, he wears a yellow package.

This quick and precise style shows that Raffet's focus is on the private soldier whom he will represent with the greatest possible historical fidelity. From 1827, he published an annual album of lithographs dedicated to the soldiers of the Republic and the Empire. In learned compositions, he will be able to evoke eventful battles as well as parades of battalions. The image is always most evocative.


Although Raffet could not see either the Revolution or the wars of the Empire, his sense of observation and his taste for detail give his production a real power of evocation. His sketches evoke nostalgia for a heroic time, the glory of the soldiers among the troops conquering revolutionary and then imperial France. The weaponry and uniform of the soldier-citizen are very faithfully reproduced. As under the Ancien Régime, some old soldiers wear long hair, tied back at the back of the neck with a ponytail. Not having been there, Raffet questioned the witnesses and the protagonists of the action. His drawings full of annotations and sketches, his notes, reflect his concern for accuracy.

  • army
  • costumes


BERTAUD Jean-Paul, Atlas of the French Revolution, volume III “The army and the war”, Paris, Editions de l'EHESS, 1989.BERTAUD Jean-Paul, Les Soldats-citizens et la Révolution française, Paris, Robert Laffont , 1979.FURET François and OZOUF Mona, Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (article "Army"), Paris, Flammarion, 1988. The French Revolution and Europe 1789-1799, exhibition catalog, Paris, RMN, 1989 .

To cite this article

Nathalie de LA PERRIÈRE-ALFSEN, "Soldiers of the First Republic"

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