The homeland in danger

The homeland in danger

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© Museum of the French Revolution, Vizille

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

In 1798, England remained the main enemy of revolutionary France. The principle of this law, long contested, was that "every Frenchman is a soldier and must defend his country".

Image Analysis

In a fictional port city, the men set out to save the Republic from threats of foreign and counter-revolutionary invasion. In the center of the picture, a soldier kisses his wife, in the presence of their child and nanny, while already turning to his fellow soldiers, who indicate to him that it is time to embark. Around them, a crowd of soldiers unanimously raise their sabers to the glory of the majestic statue of the Fatherland, symbolically placed above the magistrates who control and organize the departure of the troops. Among them, we note the presence of a black, representative of the former French colonies who symbolizes the abolition of slavery desired and decreed by the Convention on 16 Pluviose Year II (February 4, 1794). While being deliberately imaginary, the costumes of the soldiers and official representatives of the nation are inspired by the plates that Vivant Denon engraved in 1794 after drawings by David and on which appear civilian and military costume projects of the representatives of the Republic. We also note the influence of the costumes worn under the Directory during official ceremonies.


This painting by Guillon-Lethière uses classical processes to translate a scene from contemporary history. The landscapes, the buildings, some costumes take up the canons of ancient history. The subject as well as certain emblematic elements are on the other hand taken from the history of the present time - the enrollments, the homeland in danger, the statue of the Fatherland, the role of the Representatives of the people -, while recalling the recent history of the revolutionary sequence - 1793, the levies en masse - as well as the iconographic propaganda of the year II. However, it is history to come that will have the last word because the 18 Brumaire and Bonaparte's coup d'etat will force the artist to never ultimately translate this ambitious subject into a big picture.

  • army
  • conscription
  • Directory
  • revolutionary wars
  • patriotism
  • Harbor
  • Turkey
  • Russia


Philippe BORDES "The homeland in danger by Lethière and the military spirit" The Louvre Review , 1986, n ° 4-5, p. 301-306 François FURET and Denis RICHET The French Revolution Paris, Fayard, 1965, new. ed. 1997 Collective Catalog of paintings, sculptures and drawings Vizille, Museum of the French Revolution, 1986.

To cite this article

Pascal DUPUY, "The homeland in danger"

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