From Sublime to Ridiculous — Enlightenment


Voltaire swore to Catherine of Russia that he adored her, and as the evidence he sent the Empress a picture of himself looking at her portrait. In the etching below, made after a water-color by Denon, Louis XVI pays his respect to Voltaire in the same virtual way — the two of them had never met. Voltaire hated this drawing. “I know that you have done me a great honor,” he wrote to Denon, “even though my friends and family suggest that you may be making fun of me.” Breakfast in bed, which celebrity today would protest a photograph taken under such circumstances? What’s wrong? Why protest? Does Denon’s “caricature” tell us something new about the Enlightenment?

Twenty years later, in 1794, Robespierre inaugurated a new religion that was to bring us all peace and happiness. The celebration of the cult took place first as a procession from Tuileries to the Fields of Mars; there Maximilian Robespierre, all clad in light-blue and holding a bouquet of thorns and flowers, advanced toward the Statue of Wisdom; at her feet he set fire to the mannequins of Atheism, Egoism and Ambition; the President of the National Assembly was at the apogee of power; but in the group of the elected officials reigned disorder, the deputies cracked jokes and refused to keep in step, they were seconded by the ever-jeering Parisian crowds. None other than Jacques-Louis David was behind the event’s conceptual realization. Denon played the role of an assistant.

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About versaillesgossip, before and after Francis Ponge

The author of the blogs Versailles Gossip and Before and After Francis Ponge, Vadim Bystritski lives and teaches in Brest France. The the three main themes of his literary endeavours are humor, the French Prose Poetry, the French XVII and XVIII Century Art and History. His writings and occasionally art has been published in a number of ezines (Eratio, Out of Nothing, Scars TV, etc). He also contributes to Pinterest where he comments on the artifiacts from the Louvre and other collections. Some of his shorter texts are in Spanish, Russian and French.
This entry was posted in French Revolution, Louis XVI, Voltaire. Bookmark the permalink.

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