Sunday, 20 September 2015

Assassin's creed - Unity





Released last year, the game Assassin’s Creed Unity, in the Assassin’s Creed series by Unisoft, is set in Paris during the Terror. “Point and click” is about my limit as far as gaming is concerned,  but I love this game's beautiful recreations of Revolutionary Paris.

Ubisoft aimed for "real-world scale" in the central section of the game.  About a quarter of the buildings are playable - meaning your character wander (or creep, run and leap) around them and move seamlessly from outdoor to indoor scenes. The effect is really impressive.



According to Art Director Mohamed Gambouz, who is based in Montreal, the idea was not to provide total historical accuracy but a Paris of the imagination,  the "postcards people have in their minds". Nonetheless considerable effort was spent in recreating the historical city.  Designer Nicolas Guerin spent three months poring over more than 150 old plans.   Numerous iconic landmarks – the Notre Dame, the Hotel de Ville, place de la Concorde, the catacombs - were lovingly reconstructed. Caroline Miousse, artist on the project, took two years to model Notre Dame alone.   Ubisoft even toured Paris to compare the gameplay video on a tablet to the real life monuments.

There are some deliberate anachronisms, mostly to signpost the period clearly to gamers: the most notable are:
  • The Marseillais and tricolour flag of the Republic are adopted before time
  • The Bastille - marvellously and atmospherically reconstructed - remains intact in 1793
  • Despite the research, Notre Dame has its later iconic spires which today make it  a recognisable landmark
  • The statue of Liberty is transferred from New York to Revolutionary Paris
  • There are street signs although these were only introduced to Paris fifty years later.
To offset these creative liberties and create a feeling of authenticity, the designers worked to add an impressive wealth of accurate historical detail. They employed several staff historians; Maxime Durand work on the tiny details of wall hangings and costumes which players hardly notice. Notre Dame was not merely recreated; its interior was piled with weaponry and livestock just as it would have been in 1793.




On its release in late 2014,  the game came in for criticism not only for the unimaginative plot and the glitches in gameplay but also for its historical bias.  The French Left was certainly not amused.  Euro-MP and former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon gave a TV interview in which he denounced Ubisoft’s portrayal of the French people as bloodthirsty savages and Robespierre as a monster.  But since he also described Marie-Antoinette as a “cretin” perhaps the problem wasn’t so much bias as the wrong bias?

In search of a more balanced verdict, the Nouvel Observateur approached the handsome academic historian from the Sorbonne Guillaume Mazeau. Guillaume  was not too fazed by the obvious anachronisms and admired all the detail – for instance the inclusion of Louis XVI’s actual speech to the Estates-General – though he too was upset by the violence of the crowd. 



Personally, I think everyone is worrying unnecessarily.  If you don't like gratuitous violence, you don't play Assassin's Creed! The average gamer knows full well that the behaviour of the crowds is nothing to do with historical accuracy – it is dictated by the needs of the gameplay.  The most discerning critics point out that Ubisoft has in fact done very little to integrate the plot of the game with its historical location in any sophisticated way - the assassin is just plonked in 18th-century France with the same old killing mission. Assassin's Creed Unity is not educational and its is not history;  it is just a computer game with some first-class graphics to enjoy.


References

Steve Dent, "Exploring modern Paris to find the roots of Assassin's Creed Unity", Engadget.uk, 6 Oct.2014.
http://www.engadget.com/2014/10/06/ubisoft-assassins-creed-paris/

Andrew Webster "Building a better Paris in 'Assassin's Creed Unity'TheVerge, 31 Oct.2014
http://www.theverge.com/2014/10/31/7132587/assassins-creed-unity-paris

Rory Mulholland,  Assassin's Creed: Unity 'makes travesty of the French Revolution' The Telegraph 14 Nov 2014
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11231217/Assassins-Creed-Unity-makes-travesty-of-the-French-Revolution.html

Benoît Le Corre, "On a fait jouer un historien à « Assassin’s Creed Unity" ObsRue89 19 Nov 2014
http://rue89.nouvelobs.com/rue89-culture/2014/11/19/a-fait-jouer-historien-a-assassins-creed-unity-256118

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Voltaire by Largillière - the case of the two portraits


Here is the magnificent Largillière portrait of Voltaire in the Versailles collection, prominently rehung in the Salle du Pape in January following the Charlie Hebdo shootings. Shame that it should ever have been hidden away!

Even though the painting is so well known, there is a certain amount of  mystery surrounding it.  The problem is that there are actually two Largillière portraits, this one in Versailles and one in the Musée Carnavalet, both of which have good claim to be the "original".  The prima facie case for the Versailles portrait is a strong one.  It  is clearly the superior painting in finish and coloration, and has the endorsement of Largillière experts such as Dominique Brême, who wrote the catalogue for the major Largillière exhibition at the Musée Jacquemart-André in 2003. But the Carnavalet portrait too has a well-established provenance.



Voltaire, the actress and the painting


Voltaire poses for the artist whilst the 
beautiful Suzanne looks on adoringly.
Illustration from a fanciful 19th-century account,  
HoussayeActresses and lovers (1852)
The only early reference to the portrait is a note in the Kehl edition of the works of Voltaire relating to the Epistle Les tu et les vous which was written in about 1729 and probably addressed to Voltaire's former lover Suzanne de Corsembleu de Livry, marquise de Gouvernet. Long ago in 1716, whilst in exile at the Hôtel de Sully, Voltaire had struck up a relationship with the beautiful aspiring actress.  Despite Voltaire's voice coaching she failed to excel on the stage, even when Voltaire secured for her the leading role of Jocasta in Oedipe.  She subsequently travelled with a troupe of actors to England,  acquired an aristocratic husband the marquis de Gouvernet, and, with Voltaire's aid, won a fortune on the lottery. In 1729 Voltaire was not amused when he found himself turned away from her door by a lackey.  A lifetime later in 1778, during Voltaire's final months in Paris, the former lovers, now both octogenarians, met once again. Voltaire discovered that she still possessed his portrait.
According to the note:

"At the time of his liaison with mademoiselle de Livri, M. de Voltaire had given her his portrait, painted by Largillière, and she had kept it always despite their parting, her change of estate and her religious devotion.  During their conversation in 1778, he let it be known that he wanted to offer this portrait to the marquise de Villette;  madame de Gouvernet consented, and Voltaire immediately carried it off personally to madame de Villette, who has possessed it ever since." 


The picture was sold as part of the Villette collection in 1865. 
Here is a notice:

Vente de Villette, 1865
http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/cac1865/0321
.
Largillière. Portrait de Voltaire à trente-cinq ans. Habit bleu, chapeau sous le bras, la main gauche passée dans le gilet. Voltaire avait donné ce beau portrait à  portrait à Mlle de Livry ; plus tard il témoigna le désir de l’offrir à  Mme de Villette; Mlle de Livry, devenue Mme de Gouvernet, y consentit; Voltaire le prit et l’apporta lui-même à Mme de Villette. Depuis ce moment, il est resté dans la famille. Voir dans les Œuvres de Voltaire, une note à la suite de l’épître intitulée : "Les Vous et les Tu". 6,250 fr

[Largillière. Portrait of Voltaire, thirty-five years old.  Blue coat, hat under the arm, left hand in his waistcoat.  Voltaire had given this fine portrait to Mlle de Livry; later he expressed his desire to offer it to Mme de Villette.  Mlle de Livry, who had become Mme de Gouvernet, consented to this.  Voltaire took it and carried it himself to Mme de Villette.  Ever since that time it has remained in the family.]

This picture is almost certainly the one now in the Musée Carnavalet. It belonged to Jean-Baptiste Mariani, the former French ambassador in Rome (I am not sure whether he actually bought it at the Villette sale but, if not, it was always identified in the 19th century as the same painting.)  When he died in 1890, he bequeathed it to his brother-in-law Charles Floquet (one time Prime Minister of France), whose widow donated it to the Carnavalet in 1899. The picture is annotated in an 18th-century hand: "Fr. de Voltaire, peint par Largillierre en 1728, donné à la marquise de Villette en 1778" (It is interesting that both this note, and the sale details, place the painting in the late 1720s rather than 1718.)



No other copy of the work was  known to 19th century commentators.  Critics often complained that, since this picture was in private hands, no good quality  portrait of Voltaire was accessible to the public.  There was only an inferior copy prepared for the Académie française.  This still  exists at Versailles; the details of Voltaire's dress  - notably the red waistcoat and arrangement of buttons - show clearly that it derives from the Carnavalet portrait.

http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/joconde_fr?
ACTION=CHERCHER&FIELD_1=REF&VALUE_1=000PE006028


What about the Versailles Largillière?

We know that it belonged to Massimo Uleri - presumably the film producer -  who donated it to the Versailles collections in 1962.  Squinting at "snippet view" of the 2003 Largillière exhibition catalogue yields the information that this portrait too is identified as the picture given to Suzanne de Livry.  The earliest entry in the detailed provenance refers to the collection Evrard de Rhoné, which was the subject of a sale in Paris, hôtel Drouot, on 6-8 May 1861.  (I even found a sale catalogue on Internet Archive but, disappointingly, there is no mention of the Voltaire.).  The portrait subsequently belonged to several other collectors and was sold to M. Uleri in December 1961.

The  notice for the Carnavalet Voltaire offers one possible explanation:

"The existence of the version in Versailles, which is of better quality, has cast doubt on the authenticity of the portrait in the Carnavalet.  According to the research of Samuel Taylor, the portrait in the Carnavalet is indeed the original, and the portrait in Versailles, is a copy ordered by Voltaire from the artist in about 1740.  The difference in quality may be explained by Voltaire's fame - by 1740 Largillière was painting the most famous author in Europe."

Samuel Taylor is presumably Samuel S.B. Taylor, who has written extensively on both Voltaire and Rousseau. So far I haven't traced the reference.  However, there is clearly no absolute consensus among the experts. 

 It might be worth pointing out that we do not really know if the portrait given to Mlle de Livry was the "original" or the only one in circulation in the 1720s; would Voltaire really have surrendered the only copy to his mistress (or even ex-mistress), I wonder?

References

Versailles portrait:

Joconde:
http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/joconde_fr?ACTION=CHERCHER&FIELD_1=REF&VALUE_1=000PE006597 
Versailles (Musée de l'histoire de France):
http://www.museehistoiredefrance.fr/index.php?option=com_oeuvre&view=detail&cid=116

Carnavalet portrait:

http://a80-musees.apps.paris.fr/
I can't see a way of linking directly to this notice for the Carnavalet portrait on this website, so here is a copy:
Institution
Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris
Domaine
Peinture
Auteur/Fonction d'auteur/ Datation/Lieu d'exécution
Largillierre, Nicolas de (Paris, 10/10/1656 - Paris, 20/03/1746)
Peintre
entre 1718 et 1724
Titre
Portrait de Voltaire (1694-1778) en 1718
Stade de la création
Ouvre achevée
Description
Toile ovale.
Matériaux et techniques
Huile sur toile
Dimensions
·  80,00cm (Hauteur,Ouvre)
·  65,00cm (Largeur,Ouvre)
Iconographie
Voltaire (1694-1778) vers 1728. Le modèle coiffé d'une perruque, revêt un gilet, un jabot et un habit orné de larges boutons.
Marques, inscriptions, poinçons
Inscription concernant l'auteur
Au revers de la toile : "Fr de Voltaire, peint par Largillierre en 1728, donné à la marquise de Villette en 1778".
Historique
L'existence de la version de Versailles, de plus belle qualité, a fait douter de l'authenticité du portrait du musée Carnavalet, dont l'historique est pourtant assez sûr. D'après les recherches de Samuel Taylor, il semble que le tableau de Carnavalet soit bien l'original et que le tableau de Versailles soit une réplique autographe, demandée par Voltaire à l'artiste vers 1740. La différence de qualité peut s'expliquer par la plus grande notoriété du modèle en 1740 : Largillierre aurait alors pris plus de soin à représenter le plus célèbre écrivain de toute l'Europe qu'il n'en avait pris, vers 1720, à représenter un auteur encore à ses débuts.
Mode d'acquisition
Legs
Donateur,testateur ou vendeur
Floquet, Charles
Date d'acquisition
1899
Numéro d'objet
CARP0208



 
                  

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

A little-known portrait of Voltaire



Anonymous portrait in oils of Voltaire; 91 cm x 71cm
Dijon, Musée des beaux-arts 
Portraits give an illusion of familiarity - it is faintly disturbing to discover a new one, especially of a subject you think you recognise and know  well....This Voltaire, which I have not come across before, is from the Musée des beaux-arts in Dijon.  It was formerly thought to be by Antoine Vestier but in 2004 the Sorbonne research student Michelle Despes argued that the artist was in fact the Flemish painter and Academician Jacques André Joseph Aved (1702-66).  This ascription is now accepted on Joconde.  Aved moved in the same circles as Voltaire in Paris.  He held a salon in his Hôtel des Théatins, rue de Bourbon (now rue de Lille)  knew Fontenelle and Titon du Tilleul, and frequented the gatherings of Madame de Lambert, the duchesse du Maine and Madame de Tencin.


In 2006  La Gazette des Délices published a piece by Michelle Despes in which she attributed to Aved an altogether better-known portrait, the Voltaire "at the age of twenty-four" acquired by Theodore Besterman in 1948 and given to the Institut et Musée Voltaire in 1953.  This picture is usually dismissed (quite reasonably) as an inferior copy of the famous portrait by Nicolas Largillière in Versailles. A manuscript note in a 19th-century hand on the back specifies that it was given by Voltaire himself to Charles Palissot, author of the comedy Les philosophes (1760).

Perhaps surprisingly, the curators at Les Délices have taken Michelle Despes's argument sufficiently seriously to outline her reattribution in their guidebook (Petite histoire des Délices (2013), p.33-34)

The case rests mainly on dating.  In 1718, Michelle Despes argues, the youthful Voltaire was too poor and lacking in standing to have commissioned a picture from the great Largillière, but was much more likely to have encountered Aved. (I worry a little that Aved, if he was born in 1702, was only sixteen at the time...?). This may be so, but on the other hand Voltaire is known to have possessed and cherished a Largillière portrait of his mother (a version of which was sold at auction in 1986)

The date of the Largillière portrait is in any case open to doubt.  According to the notice for the Versailles picture, the date of 1718 derives from a letter concerning the engraved version executed by Etienne-François Besson for the Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, published in Paris  in 1785-9.  This specifies that the model was twenty-four years old when he posed. Voltaire appears older than this (though he clearly still has his teeth!)  and experts on Largillière feel,  based on the style and palette, that a date of 1724-25 is more likely.  This places the portrait at a suitable highpoint in Voltaire's career; he received a pension from the Regent in 1722, published the Henriade in 1723 and in 1725 was charged with theatrical productions for the marriage of Louis XV (1725).   His wig and clothing too are consistent with Regency fashions.

Michelle Despes would also clearly like to challenge the idea that the Les Délices Voltaire is a "mere copy".  In her view it represents a more natural style, showing Arouet with the dreamy distant expression of a young man in love, much more spontaneous and fresh than the "cold and impersonal" Largillière.  In which case, is the highly finished Versailles painting the copy?  How does the Les Délices  picture compare with the Dijon portrait by Aved?  It seems to me that there are lots of difficulties with this interpretation.  The conventional view, that the Les Délices picture is a later copy of the Largillière original seems much more likely.


References

Notice of the Dijon portrait on Joconde:
http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/joconde_fr?ACTION=RETROUVER&NUMBER=1&GRP=0&REQ=%28%28%27CA%20T%20128%27%29%20%3aINV%20%29


Lespes, Michelle, "Clin d’œil : Portrait de Voltaire à l’âge de vingt-quatre ans : une nouvelle hypothèse", La Gazette des Délices. La revue électronique de l’Institut et Musée Voltaire, 12, hiver 2006. 
http://institutions.ville-geneve.ch/wwwextras/bge-gazette/12/pdf_12/12_clin.pdf

Flavio Borda d'Agua, ‎François JacobPetite histoire des Délices (2013), p.33-34.


Monday, 14 September 2015

The "Triumph of Voltaire"

Even the reverential guide who showed us round at Ferney had to admit that Voltaire was no connoisseur of painting!  Most of the pictures in the chateau are mediocre reproductions of 17th-century mythological scenes which no-one could work up the motivation to pillage or sell.  Among the few originals is this monstrosity which nicely illustrates both Voltaire's lack of artistic discernment and his penchant for naive self-advertisement.  It is huge and truly horrible.....



The picture is the work of one Alexandre Duplessis, an otherwise little known artist. He came from Bourg-en-Bresse and later worked in Lyon where he died in 1797. In July 1775 Voltaire commended his work to François Tronchin in glowing terms, describing him as "formed by Rubens".  He confirmed that the painter wanted to paint for him a canvas with "ninety-one figures". A payment to Duplessis of 60 livres duly appears in the chateau account book for 25th January 1776.

Madame de Genlis recounts in her Memoirs that in the summer of 1775 she paid a visit to Ferney accompanied by the German painter Joseph-Mathias Ott.  Ott was scandalised to find an original Correggio relegated to an antechamber whilst this picture - a ridiculous enseigne à bière said Madame de Genlis - enjoyed pride of place in Voltaire's salon. The picture was "entirely the invention" of a talentless local painter from Geneva who had presented it to Voltaire; but how, Madame de Genlis wondered, could Voltaire have had the bad taste to display it so pompously for all to see?

Evidently Voltaire's sense of the ridiculous was beginning to desert him in old age!


http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b6946864h
Unfortunately, the composition was given greater currency by the appearance of an engraved version.  This proclaimed proudly that it was "Invented, drawn and engraved by Duplessis, painter and engraver of History, after an original he painted  himself in the cabinet of M. de Voltaire".  The rubric lovingly explains the details of the scene:


First, Voltaire's achievement as a playwright is lauded. Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy, surrounded by the other Muses, presents Voltaire to Apollo to receive the Crown of Immortality. Behind her Urania, the Muse of Astronomy instructs Clio, Muse of History, to place his bust in the temple of Memory.  Clio shows the genies (presumably the little fat cherubs) the empty space in the Colonnade where it is to go; they hurry to place the bust there and to adorn it with garlands.  The leading cherub points out the place,  between the Ancient dramatists Sophocles and Euripides on the one hand and the great Moderns Racine and Corneille on the other.


Other parts of the tableau commemorate Voltaire's contribution to the cause of toleration. To the right of Apollo a personification of France presents Voltaire to his protégés whilst Russia and Prussia look on encouragingly.  Among the group can be recognised Mlle Corneille, the Calas family, plus Sirven and his wife. Above them the chariot of Apollo arrives, preceded by Aurore scattering roses. In the foreground Tolerance, a woman dressed in white to symbolise benevolence, holds a Caduceus or staff, emblem of Peace.  A young girl and several little children, one of whom has a wounded hand, clutch her skirts for fear of the ugly red monster behind them.  Holding a book and equipped with Mask, Dagger and Torch, this is clearly l'Infame - Fanaticism, Hypocrisy, Intolerance, Persecution - temporarily laid low.  The spirit of Philosophy lends a restraining hand, whilst the light of her torch sends Ignorance and Stupidity, with his ass's ears, scurrying for cover.


Voltaire disliked criticism. In the bottom right the three Furies lay into a hapless collection of his adversaries. The unfortunate gentleman  getting the drumming from the switch of snakes is identified as l'Ami***  -  would this be Fréron?  I'm not sure.

Reference
Voltaire chez lui:  Ferney 1758-1778  Editions Cabedita, 1999. p.94-9.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Voltaire at Ferney - some holiday snaps

At Easter I at last made it to Ferney....


Apparently there are big plans to renovate next year, but I enjoyed it as it was, delapidated and deserted. It was decidedly colder indoors than out!













Thursday, 10 September 2015

9th September 1792: massacre at Versailles (cont.)


http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b84116459
.

It was inevitable that in the highly charged atmosphere of the period following the 10th August, Parisian militants should turn their attention to the national High Court in Orléans which had been set up by the Constituent Assembly in March 1791 to try those accused of political crimes - "lèse-nation" in the new parlance. The Court had advisedly been situated at a safe distance from the capital in Orléans where its courtroom and prison were located in the former convent of the Minimes. The Court did not inspire trust by its track record for militancy; its procedure involved long processes of information gathering and was weighted in favour of the accused. Thanks to the amnesty voted by the Assembly, it had already been relieved of proceeding against the individuals implicated in the King's flight to Varennes. Moreover, since the 10th August it had returned several acquittals.

On 23rd August the Commune reiterated its insistence that the juridiction of the Court be destroyed and the prisoners awaiting trial be transferred to Paris. In the Assembly, the Girondin deputy Gensonné attempted to seize the initiative by demanding the Court's reconsitution. On 25th the Minister of Justice was charged with sending a commission to Orléans and the Assembly duly dispatched two of its members, the radical deputies Léonard Bourdon and Dubail, "to ensure the state of the prisons of Orléans ".(p.362-3)

The Commune, however, pre-empted the move. On the 24th a band of five or six hundred armed volunteers commanded by the notorious Claude Fournier "l'Américain" had already left for Étampes where they awaited further instructions from Danton and the Commune. The Assembly recognised the fait accompli and, on 26th August, passed a second decree ordering a force of 1,800 men to be sent to Orléans with canon to guarantee the safety of the prisoners.  Roland, under the domination of Danton, regularised Fournier's position by making him commander of this new force. He was joined by a further group of armed men under Claude François Lazowski who was made second-in-command.  They acted in collusion with Bourdon and Dubail.

Arriving in Orléans on 30th August, the Parisian radicals took over the two prisons (Minimes and Saint-Charles) and, by all accounts, promptly fleeced the inmates of their valuables.  On the 2nd September they joined in a civic fête with their supporters in the town.  The Assembly meanwhile issued and urgent decree demanding that the accused be transferred to the security of the fortress of Saumur. The message was sent by extraordinary courier to the représentants Garran-Coulon, deputy of Paris, and Pelicot , deputy of Bouches du Rhone, who were acting as grands procurateurs to the High Court.  It was duly communicated to the Parisian commanders.  On the 4th of September at six o'clock in the morning Fournier gave the order to leave.  The prisoners, fifty-three in all, were unceremoniously piled into seven ammunition carts furnished by the artillery.  Lazowski rode at their head, adored with the cross of Saint Louis and Cincinnatus, whilst other members of the Revolutionary force adorned their hats with an ominous "Paris ou la mort!".


The convoy left Orléans by the porte Bannier making for Paris via Artenay. They spent the first night at Toury, the second at Angerville and finally arrived back at Étampes in the course of the 6th September.  Here the prisoners were forced to sleep the straw covered floor of an abandoned convent and were allowed leisure to write to their families and friends.  Their communications were never sent but instead placed in the care of Fournier and in due course deposited at the Hôtel de Ville. They still survive - several are reproduced in Mortimer-Ternaux Histoire de la Terreur III, p.561.



At eight in the morning on the 5th, the Assembly received an urgent dispatch informing them that, despite the decree of the 2nd, the prisoners were en route to Paris.  It now issued a further decree allowing the executive powers to take "whatever measures are necessary" and sent out two commissioners to meet Fournier with a proclamation by Vergniaud recalling the troops to their duty and ordering them back to Saumur.  However, the Commune nominated four commissioners of its own who arrived at Étampes several hours ahead of the convoy, duly read the proclamation, but claimed that secret orders had been sent changing the destination to Versailles. On 6th September Madame du Barry received a letter from the Chevalier d’Escourre, the duc de Brissac’s equerry, informing her that the prisoners were due to arrive at Versailles the next day.


In the event the convoy moved only slowly towards its destination. By the 8th they were in Arpajon, forty kilometres from Versailles, where the prisoners spent the in the stables of the duc de Mouchy at In the morning they moved on to Marcoussis and halted in front of the bailliage, where local patriots hurled abuse at the prisoners.  The story goes that one of them climbed on the wheel of one of the carts and whistled at an old man with his hands tied behind his back.  The old man responded, "My friend I am as good a patriot as you; I am a poor priest".  This must surely have been the once imperious Monseigneur Castellane who was the only ecclesiastic among the prisoners .

Meanwhile, among the authorities at Versailles, there was consternation. The former Constituent, Charles-Jean-Marie Alquier, president of the Tribunal of Seine-et-Oise, personally leapt on his horse and galloped to Paris to warn Danton of the prisoners' immanent arrival, asking if he was to commit them for trial. The Minister of Justice merely signalled his acquiesence in the impending violence by replying that "there were guilty among them" and turned his back dramatically on his visitor.

On 8th September the Mayor of Versailles, Hyacinthe Richaud formally communicated to the town council a letter from Roland commanding the local authorities to provide lodging and subsistence for the prisoners and those charged with "safeguarding them" - some 1,500 men. Five or six thousand "volunteers" had already flooded into the town and Richaud feared, with reason, the likelihood of "bloody executions".  It was decided to take the prisoners to the comparative security of the cages of the former Royal Ménagerie, situated at the end of the southern branch of the Grand Canal, with its main entrance on the route de Bretagne, between Versailles and Saint-Cyr.


On the 9th September the advanced guard of the escort finally arrived to announce that that the prisoners were two leagues away. Richaud rode out to Jouy, a commune just outside Versailles with the hope of directing the prisoners to the Ménagerie without going through the town.  He left behind a proclamation that, in the event of their entry into Versailles, the prisoners were to be left unmolested.  At one o'clock he sent a note warning that the cortege, with all its equipment, was indeed going to pass through Versailles.  Events now began to inexorably forward towards the final denouement. The Prefecture of the department appointed three magistrates -  Latruffe, Deplane and Truffet - to conduct the convoy from the gate of Petit-Montreuil to that of the Orangerie. At two o'clock it was reported that the prisoners had successfully crossed the town unharmed despite the large and hostile crowd which had gathered. But sadly, the news was premature. At quarter to three, the sieur Pile, appariteur de police announced that the prisoners "had just been massacred in the rue de l'Orangerie".



The majority of the Versailles National Guard which surrounded the prisoners had complied with their orders to protect them. The escort was divided;  part of the cavalry and the artillery, accompanied by Fournier and Lazowski, plus Richaud and the three magistrates, had taken the head.  A second detachment went behind, leaving the flanks exposed. The cortege entered the town by the rue des Chantiers, a road more than a kilometre long, which ended in the avenue de Paris, near the Hôtel de Ville.  They were then to follow the avenue de Paris, cross the Place d'Armes in front of the Château and pass through the much smaller rue des Recollets and rue de Saint-Julien to gain the rue de l'Orangerie. From here they could proceed to the gate onto to the route de Bretagne (route de Saint-Cyr) where the Ménagerie was situated.


au carrefour des Quatre Bornes . 
The plan started to go wrong outside the Château when a part of the escort contrived to take a shortcut across the courtyard of the palace and terrace of the Orangerie in order to outflank the main convoy and cut it off just before the barrier. A second group managed to shut the gate behind the leading escort party. A hostile crowd gathered which demanded that Brissac and Lessart be surrendered to them - Brissac, still in his blue uniform coat with gold buttons, was in the third cart, conspicuous because of his height and bearing. Singled out by the hostile crowd of onlookers.  Richaud, having struggled back through the barrier, turned the convoy round and attempted to make for the safety of the hôtel of the gardes-du-corps in the rue Royale at the other end of the rue de l'Orangerie - a mere 500 metres away.  Here they could wait until the crowd had dispersed before proceeding.  They reached the crossroads with the rue Satory (the carrefour des Quatre-Bornes) half-way to their destination, only to find that the crowd had already arrived. Richaud heroically tried to interpose himself between the attackers and the prisoners, only to slip in blood and find himself carried to a nearby house. (Legend has it that, attempting to struggle back, he exclaimed "I will die at my post!", only to be told ominously, "It is not yet time!")


Jules Rigaud, Dévouement héroïque de Hyacinthe Richaud, maire de
Versailles, le 9 Septembre 1792. 1854 
Musée Lambinet, Versailles

The deposition of a municipal officer delivered on the 11th september 1792 recounts how he was summoned immediately afterwards to the scene. He and his two companions arrived to find the crossroads strewn with bloody mutilated bodies. They were shown the remains of Brissac and de Lessart which were totally unrecognisable.  Fifteen or twenty men approached the three officers and forced them to search the pockets of the clothes. They then had the bodies put in a cart and taken to the Saint-Louis cemetery. The clothes were taken to the place de la Loi and publicly burned. The inventory of the duc de Brissac's possessions still survives (see Mortimer-Ternaux, p.407)
Two former servants of the duc, Antoine Baudin and his son Pierre, had followed the prisoners to Versailles, and were able to confirm his death. (p.178) Near the fountain de Quatre-Bornes the prisoners on the carts were assailed with blows from sabres, pikes and bayonets by a "multitude of people dressed in all sorts of clothes". The two men both recognised Brissac on the third cart in his blue coat. At two-thirty, the father saw and recognised on the pavement the corpse of Brissac, who appeared to have been injured by sabre wounds to his face, the worst of which was to his nose. Some moments later he saw his severed head on a pike, with a placard naming him attached to the forehead, in the middle of a crowd. Son corroborated. He had seen the duc in his blue coat with yellow buttons, his curled hair and pigtail, his boots, like the other prisoners sitting in the straw of his cart with his hat in hand. The prisoners were set upon by a crowd with sabres,pikes and bayonets, the horses were led away. He witnessed the duc being thrown off the cart, set upon and mutilated.

The distinction of having killing the duc de Brissac was disputed between a vigneron called Louis-Martin Lamprié and a certain "Vieuville le Blond" who claimed to have thrust a pike into his heart, and carried his head aloft on a pitchfork. Another Revolutionary apparently hurried home with the duc's severed foot, still in its "grey silk stocking and new shoe"; another boasted a fragment of his blue coat and one of his fingers. Durupt de Balène, intendant of the Civil List at Versailles, saw "three youths, one aged about sixteen and the others younger" who styled themselves the bearers of Brissac's head and who were parading around with the grisly trophy impaled on sabre. They presented it to his wife demanding that she "Kiss Brissac"; the poor woman took to her bed and died shortly afterward. It is well attested that the head was subsequently transported to Louveciennes and lobbed into Madame du Barry's house, perhaps even into the salon where she was sitting. In 1900 a skull, which according to Lenotre resembled a sculpture of the duc, was found in the garden and reburied by the side of the road to Prunay.
See



The aftermath

The death toll is reckoned at 44 out of 53 prisoners. Two gravely wounded men who managed to find shelter, were taken to the Versailles infirmary and later hidden. Three officers of the regiment of Perpignan were also rescued and successfully escaped.

Following the slaughter of the Orléans prisoners, the insurgents set up a summary tribunal at the Maison d'arrêt, the prison for detainees awaiting trial, which was housed in the former Queen's stables. Despite the desperate resistance of Richaud, Germain,the President of the Department and Gillet the public prosecutor, thirteen more prisoners were killed, the majority of them common criminals.


Les Ecuries de la Reine - today the Versailles Court of  Appeal



The next day the makeshift army made its triumphal entry into Paris, with six canon and the bloodied carts in tow, and made its way to the residence of the Minister of Justice on the place Vendôme. The complicity of the Revolutionary regime was made clear when Danton himself duly appeared on the balcony, to deliver the thanks of "the minister of the people".


References


Paul Huot, Les Massacres à Versailles en 1792 (Paris 1862)
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ciRbAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

Mortimer-Ternaux, Histoire de la Terreur  III (1862) , p.359- https://archive.org/stream/bub_gal_ark_12148_bpt6k367704#page/n361/mode/2up

Charles Vatel, Histoire de Madame du Barry, III (1883) p.
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6489787h/f195.image.r=dessin%20alpes.langFR