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The storming of the Bastille on the 14 July 1789. Line engraving with etching.


Free to use with attribution CC BYCredit: Wellcome Collection
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Two themes dominate the first visual representations of the fall of the Bastille in France and in England: the collapse of the edifice of despotism before the will of the people and the liberation of the innocent from their manacles. Virtually all representations depend upon the contrast between the seemingly impregnable immensity of the Bastille and the varied humanity of its besiegers The surrender of the Bastille was perceived in Britain as a decisive event in the history not only of France but of the world. In eighteenth-century France the prison of the Bastille had been identified by the philosophes as a symbol of despotism, and an expression of the arbitrary power of the French monarch who had the power to incarcerate anyone there indefinitely by means of a lettre de cachet. The fact that so many writers had spent short periods in the Bastille created an aura of glamour around it, which was reinforced by the promotion of tales of its legendary inhabitants, like the Man in the Iron Mask. By the time it fell on 14 July 1789 there were only seven prisoners and none were there for political crimes


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1 print : line engraving, with etching ; image 7.8 x 11 cm


Thier's History of the French Revolution. An original translation by T.W. Redhead Esqr. Attack on the Bastille 1789



  • English

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The storming of the Bastille on the 14 July 1789. Line engraving with etching. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

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