Monday, 31 July 2017

A 21st-century portrait of Maximilien....

Maximilien de Robespierre by Julien Lasbleiz
"Digital work of Maximilien Robespierre using the death mask and some of the paintings as references.  The purpose was to get the most realistic, accurate and plausible face as much as I could" ©2014-2015 JulienLasbleiz

This marvellous image is the work of Canadian film and animation artist, Julien Lasbleiz.  It is based on the same death/life mask used by Philippe Froesch in his facial reconstruction of 2013, plus data from existing artworks, finished to create the impression of an oil painting.

 Of course, no-one knows if the portrait is actually true to life, but it is certainly a valuable corrective to Philippe Froesch's harsh image.  Julien Lasbleiz is obviously sympathetic towards his subject; the colouring seems right - though perhaps a little to florid? -  and he successfully incorporates evidence from the mask, with its pitted skin, without making of Robespierre a monster.


Julien LaBleiz, Robespierre - presentation and comments on

Friday, 28 July 2017

Checklist of Robespierre portraits, set 2

17. Painting (?) by David,1792 (?), in dress and theatrical pose of a deputy; said to have been done, like No. 16, for the Duplays.
 I am not sure what Thompson's documentation is for the existence of this portrait, nor how it relates to the lithograph (No.32).  He writes says  that the picture, now lost, may perhaps be identified with one recorded in the journal of Alfred de Vigny as in the possession of the Prince de Ligne:
See: Annales révolutionnaires, vol.10(5), p.696: "Portrait of Robespierre by David" - described as the head of Robespierre in pastel, showing his dark, almond-shaped eyes, melancholy smile and regular teeth.

18. Oil painting by Lefèvre, 1792, from E. Hamel's collection, now in the Carnavalet Museum

(3/4 length, sitting, 3/4 face right, holding book open on kneeds; curled hair, dark coat, white jabot and waistcoat, lace cuffs).  Interesting, rather sinister, in bad condition.  Reproduced in Buffenoir (32)

Buffenoir, vol.1(2) p.260-1, plate 13.

Notice from the Musée Carnavalet: 
For once there is a clear answer on the status of this portrait.  Not Robespierre!
In 1988 the painting was cleaned and the identifying inscription found to be an addition.  The figure itself had been over-painted in order to make it look more like Robespierre. The newly cleaned portrait is a fine one, but the sitter is at present unknown.

19. Engraving by Chrétien after Fouquet, 1792

Buffenoir AR vol.1(4) p.646-7. Plate 31A:  "An imperceptible smile, hardly found elsewhere, reveals a joie de vivre, but the image is fundamentally seriousness and commands respect."  One of the first mentions of Robespierre as 'the Incorruptible'" 

A physionotrace portrait of Robespierre "after a drawing" by Jean-Baptiste Fouquet; right profile. 6 cm. 

Compare no. 55, which is possibly the original drawing.The heavy shading around the eye is characteristic of the physionotrace process.  

20. An anonymous oil painting of 1793(?) given by Clémenceau to the Carnavalet Museum.

(3/4 right, blue coat, with red and white revers, knotted cravat.)

Buffenoir, AR vol.1 (2) p.260:  "The dominent expression is energy;  it is the Robespierre of the great battles of the Convention." 

Buffenoir does not include a plate, but I think it is this portrait which is reproduced on several internet sites from old books.   I don't know whether it is still in the Carnavalet collections - I can't find a modern reference or a coloured picture. In any case, it does not look to be a very high-quality painting, though it is clearly Robespierre.

21. Anonymous water colour (?) of 1793 (?) representing Robespierre in his room at the Duplays; in Buffenoir's collection.  Reproduced in Buffenoir (36)

AR vol 1(2) p. 262-4; plate 15  An important image, known only, I think, from Buffenoir's reproduction.

22. Oil painting (?) of 1793 (?) by Ducreux (?)in the collection of of M.G.C.-L., supposed to have been shown at the Salon of 1793.
Buffenoir, vol.2(3),Appendix p.388.  Plate 9.

Buffenoir describes this picture as in the collection of M.Gaston Calmann-Lévy; his identification with the portrait exhibited at the Salon of 1793 is only speculative.

The Dictionary of Pastellists lists three different Robespierre portraits by Ducreux, the first of which is the portrait sold by Sotheby's in 2003. A second picture is documented as a chalk  exhibited in 1793. This just cannot be this portrait - the sitter simply isn't Robespierre.

Exerpt from the Dictionnary of Pastellists: Ducreux's "Robespierres":

23. Engraving by Kugner, 1793, with title Robespierre unter den Jacobinern

See Buffenoir, AR vol.1(2) p.233. 

Engraving on wood showing Robespierre at the Jacobins Signed A.W. Kugner 1793.

In the BN./Stanford Digital Archive

24. Oil painting by Greuze, 1794, bought at Lord Lonsdale's sale, and now in Lord Rosebery's collection.

A fine portrait but is it Robespierre?

Buffenoir, AR, vol.1(2), p.255-6.  Plate 5

The answer is "no". This is without doubt one of the many self-portraits produced by Ducreux.  See entry in the Dictionary of Pastellists:

There is no information as to present location.

25. Oil painting by Boutteville, in England (?) engraved by Jones, in 1794 as "Robbespierre"

(Robespierre as a schoolboy, head and shoulders, side face left, plain coat and shirt; attractive but it might be anyone.) The engraving is reprodued by Buffenoir (16)
Buffenoir, AR, vol.1(2), p.255-6.  Plate 6.
In the BN: 

26.  Oil painting by Fragonard, 1794, reproduced in A.R. 1/257. 

(Nearly full face, in damaged condition) Is it Robespierre?

Buffenoir vol.1(2), p.262. Plate 14. 

This is an anonymous painting which was in Buffenoir's own  collection.  Buffenoir in fact only claimed that the style is reminiscent of Fragonard. Current whereabouts unknown?

27. Oil painting (?) signed Diogg, P.,1794,  now at Arcueil-Cachan

....dress and hair are unlike him.

See Pierre Marcel, "Contribution à l'iconographie de Robespierre", Annales révolutionnaires, 1912, vol.5(1): p.37-40.
Bought by the chemist F.-V. Raspail in Brussels in 1852 or 1853;  in 1912 it was in the collection of the museum  founded by Raspail in Arcueil-Cachan.  
Felix Maria Diogg (1762 –1834) was a Swiss painter.

A Robespierre with sideburns?! !

28. Pen and ink sketch by P. Grandmaison, done in the Convention on July 27 (9 Thermidor) 1794.

(Head, side-face left) From the Charavay collection.  Reproduced in Buffenoir (118)

Buffenoir, AR vol.1(4): p.659. 
By François-Auguste Parseval-Grandmaison.  From the collection of Étienne Charavay; now in the BN.  The annotation reads "Portrait of Robespierre made in pen by Parseval-Grandmaison at the sitting of the 9th Thermidor. (These words are in the hand of M. de Longueville, to whom Parseval-Grandmaison gave this drawing)." 
On Grandmaison, see

29. Sketch in India ink, Mess II, belonging to Mlle Louise Lévi, described in A.R.2/387

Buffenoir vol.2(3),Appendix p.389:  Buffenoir suggests this is possibly the last portrait of Robespierre apart from the sketch by Grandmaison on 9 Thermidor. 

Buffenoir's description sounds like this engraving in the BN:

30. Death-mask, 1794

Thompson did not believe the deathmask/lifemask to be authentic.  Personally, I am totally convinced; if not Robespierre, then who else could it be? Here is a recent digital mock-up by Marie Lasbleiz

[To be continued]

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Checklist of Robespierre portraits, set 1

The following is  a transcription of the list of contemporary or near contemporary portraits given in the Appendix to J.M. Thompson's 1934 biography of Robespierre.  Thompson relies mainly on Buffenoir's classic work Portraits de Robespierre (1908/9) with a few additions and comments.  The list is broadly chronological.

It is frustrating to note just how few of these pictures have a reliable provenance.  Not many are in public collections -  a good few, indeed, seem to be known only from Buffenoir's plates.

1. Oil painting by J. Boze, exhibited at the Exposition, Paris et la Révolution in 1931; reproduced in R.S.W. Ward, Robespierre: a study in deterioration (1934) as representing Robespierre at the age 17. 

 It looks much younger, there is no resemblance to the later portraits; the dress is not that of a poor scholar; and why should Boze have painted Robespierre then? (1.2 length,3/4 left. frizzed hair, and queue; dark coat with high collar, white stock, arms crossed.)

In Getty Images with date of 1800.
Present location unknown (?)

2. Oil painting by Boilly, done at Arras in 1783, when Robespierre was 24. It belonged to the family, and was purchased for the Carnavalet Museum (where it is now) at the Dancoise sale in Paris about 1900. 

It is reproduced in Buffenoir (frontispiece) (1/2 length, 3/4 left, powdered hair, pointed collar, stock, lace jabot, coat with 4 large buttons, right and in waistcoat with small buttons)

Buffenoir (frontispiece). AR vol.1(2), p.247-50:  Robespierre "before the storm of '89": Buffenoir comments on "the honesty which the face breaths and the strength it reveals"

Musée Carnavalet, oil on canvas, 67cm x 52 cm
This painting is now generally considered to represent Augustin Robespierre.

3. Picture in the Saint-Albin collection, described by Michelet (2/257) and Lewis (53) with the inscription Tous pour mon amie;  said to be the earliest portrait of Robespierre.  Should belong to much the same date as No. 2. 

References are to:  Michelet, Histoire de la R.F. vol. 2, p.257; and G.H.L. Lewis The life of Maximilien Robespierre (1899), p.53. Now lost?  See Buffenoir, AR vol.2(3): p.389

4. Oil painting by Danloux, done in Arras in 1789 (aet 27) and showing Robespierre (?) in the dress of a deputy to the States-General;  in a private collection.

(3/4 length, full face, frizzed hair, right hand holding hat under left arm, left hand on sword-hilt, black frock-coat and waistcoat.)  It looks too young (Robespierre was 31 in 1789) and bears no resemblance to later portraits.

Buffenoir, AR, vol. 1(2) p.256-9. Present location unknown(?).

There is a possible copy by Pierre-Roch Vigneron in the Versailles collections (oil on canvas, 75 cm x 58 cm.)  Despite Thompson's misgivings, the picture is generally accepted to represent Robespierre. 

5. Anonymous oil painting in the Musée Carnavalet, perhaps of 1789

(1/2 length, life size, striped coat; gilet and jabot);  reproduced in Jaures, 1/233.)

Buffenoir, AR vol.1(2) 259-60.

The iconic image of Robespierre.

Oil on canvas, 60 × 49 cm.  Acquired by the Carnavalet in 1883. Provenance unknown.

6. Engraving by Fiesinger, after Guérin

Buffenoir, AR vol.1(4) 647-8. Plate 33.  "This portrait is considered by connoisseurs as one of the best executed."

Portrait by Guérin, engraved by Gabriel  Fiesinger. Inscribed "M. M. J. Robespierre, Deputy for Artois in the National Assembly in 1789".    
One of a series depicting deputies of the Constituent:

There are many examples and variants of this engraving.

See the discussion in: Notes and Queries, 4th series, 5/341,432:

PRINT OF ROBESPIERRE. I should much like to learn something of a print now before me: portrait, half-face, paper octavo page size, metal,  print, oval 3 x 3 in. exactly to line, set off from stipple, printed off in reddish-brown ink ; the paper seems cut down, and the print may have formed part of a volume, as there is a narrow strip, whiter than the plate- paper, pasted along backedge, evidently cut with a knife. The print is titled  M. M. J. Robespierre Dessiné par J. Guérin, Gravé par Fiesinger. The portrait was likely drawn in sanguine, and the ink of the printing kept near the colour.

What is known of Guérin, the designer, and Fiesinger, a German from his name? I have seen many portraits of the âme damnée of the Revolution, but no one for one moment to be compared to this before me. The delicate minute beauty of the work, the spirit, force, and character of the head, the intense, nervous, searching look of the eyes, the compression at the mouth, the almost visible palpitation at the nostrils, and the cat-like intensity of the whole expression are most marvellous. The large low-set ear, half seen, the massive jaw, the firm well-rounded chin, the thin compressed lips and long upper lip, the peculiar slightly retroussé nose, small nostrils and wide [alfc]?, fluttering with every gust of passion, the lean retreating forehead, and above all the cold, piercing, bloodthirsty look of the eye, tell so plainly the story of the man as to force on one the conviction of their fidelity to nature of the most minute and absolute kind. The high-collared coat, with large oval buttons, ample white necker- chief in artistic multiplicity of fold, knot and bow rippling down, a cascade of light and shade to meet the shirt-frill just seen clear of the coat- lapel; the hair, tied in a black ribbon (pigtail), seen on cheek and behind the ear to be dark, covered by a legal wig of one row of curls, sug- gest the idea of some gala as the occasion of the portrait. The youthful look of the face is startling:
Born, Arras, 1759; depute, Paris, 1789; guillotined there July 28, 1794; he was only thirty-five.-. And all the horror of his name is contained in five terrible years.  He got a public triumph in 1791.  Is this a likely date for the portrait? He would then be thirty-two, which would agree with the portrait as to age pretty well.

PRINT OF ROBESPIERRE (4 th S. v. 341.) - I can only answer partially to this query.  The print is one of a series - all good and expressive - by Fiesinger after J. Guerin.  The others I likewise possess are Petion, Rewbell, Barnave, Charles and Alexandre Lameth, Malouett, Rabaut, St. Etienne, Bertand, Barere de Vieuzac, La Rochefoucauld, Liancourt and Mirabeau.  They can be had at Danlo aine,  Quai Voltaire Paris.
Under the name of Robespierre stands, "Depute de l'Artois a l'Assemblee Nationale en 1789" which gives the probable date of this print.  He was then thirty years of age.

7.  Silhouette of 1790-91(?) attributed by Rabbe to Fragonard.

Thompson refers to an exchange in La Révolution française : revue historique (1900) vol. 38, p.256; 470; vol. 39, p. 278,382 ,462.
"the upshot of the discussion is that it does not represent Robespierre".

The portrait in question  is one of a pair of medallions painted on the stairs of the villa Maubert in Grasse. Fragonard's sejourn at the villa is now usually dated to 1790-91, a date also suggested for the picture by the fact that the companion portrait is that of the abbé Grégoire.  There seems no particular reason to doubt that this is intended to be Robespierre.
Photo by Renaud Camus:

8. An anonymous oil painting of 1790-91 (?) in a private collection, v. A.R.2/387

 (Head and shoulders, full face; puce coat,large revers, high collar, white cravat and jabot.)
See Buffenoir, AR vol. 2(3), Appendix p.387
 36cm x 46cm.
According to Buffenoir, an inscription on an old calling card was stuck to the back:  "Isidore-Maximilien Robespierre, Arras, 1759 à 1794. Directeur du Comité de Salut public (Couton (sic) et Saint- Just), attaqué et vaincu par un parti, le 10 Thermidor (28 Jl). Son frère guillotiné le lendemain."

? Hum. I'm sure I've seen a photo of a portrait with a card on the back.... but I can't find it now.

9. Pastel by Mme Guyard, shown in the Salon of 1791; since lost.

Buffenoir, AR vol.1(2), p.250-2.  
The oil by Pierre-Roch Vigneron (No.4) is sometimes said to be a copy of this pastel, but Buffenoir is probably correct to doubt this identification. For more details, see my post:

10. Pastel by J. Boze, shown at the Salon of 1791;said to have belonged to Albertine Marat, since lost

Buffenoir, AR vol.1(2), p.250.

Tentatively identified with a pastel by Boze in the Musée Lambinet (left) More speculatively, with No.41.

For further details see :

11. Anonymous crayon drawing in three colours, of 1791(?), reproduced in A.R. 1/248

Buffenoir, AR vol.1 p. 253.  Plate 2 (Plate 1 of the AR version).

From Buffenoir's own collection, otherwise unknown (?) A bit of a fat Robespierre!

12. Anonymous pastel of 1791(?) belonging to C. Vellay

See: Buffenoir, AR vol. 1(2) p.253:  a "superb pastel" which shows Robespierre's "firm intelligence, courage and moral force".
Described as right profile, showing white powdered wig, lace jabot, large cravat, light coloured coat. 
?  Is there a plate of this one - I can't find it!

13. Medallion of 1791 by Chinard of Lyon..

Buffenoir, AR vol. 1(3), p.458-9; Plate 24.

Medallion in Buffenoir's collection. 23cm in diameter.  Signed by Joseph Chinard and dated 1791.

14.  Miniature by Pajou, 1791 (?1797) in the Musée Carnavalet 

 By Augustin Pajou, signed and dated "1797"
14.3 cm diameter.
Provenance unknown.

15. Tinted drawing, from M. George Duruy's collection.

Inscribed Croquis d' d'après nature à une séance de la Convention" and with the notes "Les yeux verts, le teint pâle, habit nankin rayé vert, gilet blanc rayé bleu, cravate blanche rayée rouge.   Commonlyattributed to Gérard, and supposed to be a preliminary sketch for No.16.  Aulard, reviewing Buffenoir (R.F. 60/157), points out that the inscription is not in Gérard's hand, nor in that of his mistress. (1/2 length, full face, spectacles on forehead.)

 Buffenoir, AR vol.1(2), p.254. Plate 3.

I am not sure if the original still exists.
The stripped coat and elaborate cravat suggests  a relationship to the famous Carnavalet portrait (No.5)? 

16. An oil painting by F. Gérard, which hung in the Duplays' salon, and was destroyed by fire in 1815 (Full length) 
Buffenoir, AR vol. 1(2) p.253-4.Buffenoir notes the existence of two engravings after Gérard, but these cannot be identified with the lost portrait as they are only busts.
The portrait, together with many of Robespierre's manuscripts, was burnt by Simon Duplay in 1815.


J. M. Thompson, "Portraits of Robespierre" Appendix to Robespierre, vol. 2, 1935, p.281-5

The references to Buffenoir by Thompson are a little confusing as there are two different versions of Buffenoir's text, a set of articles in Annales Révolutionnaires (1908-9) and a slightly later monograph.  Thompson refers mostly to the articles, but the numbers given for the plates must be to pages in the later version(?).  

Hippolyte Buffenoir,  "Les portraits de Robespierre":
 Annales Révolutionnaires (Paris 1908) vol 1(2) p.244-64 (paintings);vol.1(3) p.457-466 (sculptures) vol.1(4) p.641-66  (engravings)
 Annales Révolutionnaires (Paris 1909) vol. 2(1) p. 55-69 (modern engravings);  vol.2(2) 220-242 (historical scenes)  vol.2 (3),377-394 (miniatures, curiosities)
All available on JStor; volume 1 available for free on Internet Archive:

A full set of Buffenoir's plates scanned from the monograph version has been reproduced, on Dreamwidth,     Plates 1-11     Plates  11-25     Plates 26-40     Plates   41-71
 [Unfortunately these plate numbers don't seem to correspond with Thompson either!]

See also:
David P. Jordan "Portraits of Robespierre" Appendix to The Revolutionary career of Maximilien Robespierre (1985)

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

A lock of Robespierre's hair

This lock of Robespierre's hair, which once belonged to his sister Charlotte,was acquired by the Carnavalet in 1887.  It was formerly displayed alongside the portrait attributed to Boilly, now often identified as Augustin Robespierre.  In the photograph at least, it appears almost white. This seems a little odd, as Robespierre's hair was almost invariably described as light brown - the result of hair powder? bleaching over time? - who knows.


Article from the LONDON TELEGRAPH
A lock of Robespierre's hair has just come into the hands of the keepers of the Musee Carnavalet here, and will in future be exhibited in that place by the side of the portrait of the Terrorist painted in 1783 by Boilly.  Robespierre in that picture is represented as a young man with finely-chiseled features, blue eyes, carnation lips, and light chestnut hair, and looking totally unlike the "sea-green and aceto-virulent" person suggested by Carlyle's pen-portrait.  The lock of hair is of the same colour as that in Boilly's picture.  It was inclused in a locket or medallion, on which were engraved the word "egalite", the date of the "9th Termidor" and the martyr's palms.  The souvenir belonged to Robespierre's sister Charlotte, who, on the death of the Terrorist, was sheltered by one of his adherents, the Citizen Mathon.  Charlotte Robespierre in May  1834 died in a garret in the Rue de la Fontaine, and left the relic to Mathon's daughter, from whom it passed into the possession of a '48 man named Gabiot, whose son has handed it over to the Carnavalet.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Arras, Robespierre and modern memory

A new Robespierre museum is promised in Arras.  Some might say, "At last".  To the outsider, unaware of the fraught legacy, it comes as a real surprise to learn that Arras does not already have a Robespierre museum.  The ARBR, set up in 1987,  has campaigned for 30 years.  In December 2016 the Mayor of Arras and his Council  finally agreed that the Arras Office of Tourism should take direct control of the Maison Robespierre and a committee of experts was set up to steer the museum project.....

Is this the end of a fraught conflict?

The SER and the plaque on the Maison Robespierre

"Arras has never felt comfortable with its most illustrious native son" (Kaplan, p.450). This is something of an understatement.   Rejected throughout the nineteenth century as a bloodthirsty monster, in the nineteenth century Robespierre was held responsible for local as well as national depradations.  Plans to erect a statue to his memory in Arras, formulated in 1848 and reiterated by Louis Blanc in 1870s, fell on deaf ears.

In the early years of 20th century Albert Mathiez and Charles Vellay founded the Société des Études Robespierristes, with the objective of rendering Robespierre "the justice that is due him", mainly through critical editions of his work and scholarly studies.  In October 1723, after sixteen years of lobbying,  the SER succeeded in having a plaque erected on the Maison Robespierre.  The ceremony was presided over by by Mathiez and the Left-wing mayor of Arras. Gustave Lemelle.  The favourable press reported that five hundred persons attended;  according to opponents,  there were fifty "drinkers of blood", "mostly foreigners".

For  a commemorative statue...

 Mathiez's further plan to erect a statue continued to meet with stiff opposition.  In 1925, just as he was on the brink of success, the plaque on the Maison Robespierre was vandalised and had to be removed removed. (It was later replaced but so high up that no-one could read it.).  Finally in 1932 the municipal council, which was controlled by the Radical Socialists, agreed to a monument to be furnished by the SER and annonced a solemn ceremony of dedication to be held on 15th October 1933.  The road in which the Maison stood was also renamed rue Maximilien Robespierre. Local politicians tried  to play down political significance of the move, casting Robespierre as a distinguished local lawyer, academician and member of the Rosati.

A bitter quarrel ensued. A committee of opposition was formed and the head of the order of lawyers and the president of the Academy both refused to participate in the dedication ceremony.  When members of the Rosati agreed to co-operated, their president, Émile Poiteau, resigned. The Arras newspaper Le Courrier published lists of local victims of the Terror - 1,675 names in all - and there were demandsfor the ceremony to be banned in deference to the dead.  Poiteau's call for a boycott was seconded by the bishop of Arras.

Clodel's Robespierre in the Hôtel de Ville -
sternly ignoring the flowery wallpaper

On the morning of the dedication, the anti-Robespierrists set up three model wooden guillotines, filled with cement and weighing two hundred kilograms each, at the site of the Revolutionary executions and on the major squares; cardboard heads were hung on  lamposts and  red paint poured in the streets to simulate blood.  Despite the claim that the guillotines were bobbytrapped with bombs, the police successfully dismantled them and arrested a royalist lawyer who had tried to paint the mayor's house.

The president of the SER,Georges Lefebvre and his delegation were greeted at the railway station by three Socialist deputies of the region and the ceremony passed without incident, though most of the elected officials of Arras avoided the luncheon banquet. The gathering was addressed by the mayor and by the great grandson of the physician who had attended to Robespierre's wounds in Thermidor.  Lefebvre's keynote lecture, delivered to an audience of several hundred in the municipal theatre, praised Robespierre as the apostle of social democracy and a pragmatic defender of the nation.

The bust, sculpted by Maurice Clodel, was supposed to have been placed in the gardens of the Palais du Vaast. but was instead installed in the reception hall of the Hôtel de Ville.  It was then temporarily relegated to a back room where it remained for many years.

Later campaigns

In the post-War years, with the expansion and modernisation of Arras, passions lessened, but nonetheless controversy was not entirely dead.  In 1958, the bicentenary of Robespierre's birth,  a series of commemorative projects was proposed, but vetoed at the last minute by the national government despite  support from the mayor of Arras, the Socialist leader Guy Mollet. There were some concessions.  Local history teachers, campaigned to have a school named for their hero, and the Arras boys' high-school was finally rechristened after demands from the students themselves during the demonstrations of May 1968. (However, an official inauguration of the new Lycée Robespierre has never taken place).

With the bicentenary looming, a new local pressure group, the Amis de Robespierre pour le Bicentenaire de la Révolution was founded in 1987, the under presidency of a local lawyer Fernand Bleitrach. By 1989 the ARBR had 450 or so members in the region and instigated a number of different commemorations, including a "Robespierre day" organised in conjunction with the Société des Études Robespierristes.   At this event, in June 1988 ,Michel Vovelle,president of the SER , travelled to Arras in June 1988 and, evoking a lecture given by Mathiez in Arras in 1920, delivered an address:  "Why are were still Robespierrists"?  .

Discours prononcé au théâtre d'Arras le 11 juin 1988 par M. Michel Vovelle...: Pourquoi nous sommes encore robespierriste", Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 1988 274(1) p.498-506.

In 1990 the ARBR succeeded in having a copy of Claudel's statue erected in the courtyard of the Lycée Robespierre.

Towards a museum

In 1992, after a determined campaign by the ARBR, the Maison Robespierre was finally acquired by the municipality.  However,  the space was not given over to Robespierre himself but instead housed the collections of the Compagnons du Tour de France. In 2011 an Association pour un Musée Robespierre was set up to renew the issue of a museum.
In 2012 the ARBR launched an internet petition which collected six thousand signatures from across the world.  (Even in 2012 opposition ran high: a counter-petition was promptly launched by the society Vendéens & Chouans.)

The Alliance Royale posts a reminder of the victims of the Terror, 2015

In December last the Mayor and Town Council gave their support in principle to the project. According to La Voix du Nord, they were swayed by considerations of tourism;  adverse reviews on "le célèbre site Internet de voyages TripAdvisor" amply confirmed that most visitors came to the Maison Robespierre expecting to find echoes of its famous inhabitant. There was some initial suggestion that the museum should include all famous "enfants d'Arras", but this may have been a tactic to diffuse opposition.  The Comité Scientifique, which was appointed to investigate, is headed up by Gérard Barbier, long-time ally of the ARBR, and includes Robespierre's biographer Hervé Leuwers.  

The group made its initial report in May.  They stated a general intention to create "a centre of interpretation rather than a museum" and to involve other historic sites around Arras. They hope to have a preliminary exhibition available soon.

 Comité scientifique de la Maison Robespierre

M. Gérard BARBIER – President [in front of Robespierre]

• M. Bernard SENECA, former head of the Arras Office of Culture
• M. Charles GIRY-DELOISON, Professor of Modern History, University of Artois
• M. Alain NOBILOS, Arras historian and campaigner for Arras architectural heritage.
• M. Hervé LEUWERS, Professor at the University of Lille 3, director of the Annales historiques de la Révolution française, biographer of Robespierre.

• M. Larent WIART - Secretary (I think!)
• M. Guillaume MAZEAU, Maître de Conférence – Paris I Sorbonne
• Mme Catherine DHERENT, Archivist

Not in photo:
• M. Jean-Pierre JESSENNE, Professor Emeritus of Lille 3.  A specialist in history "au village" in 18th-19th France.
• Mme Martine AUBRY, Digital humanities specialist, Lille 3.

Reporting to Mayor Frédéric Leturque on 6th May


Anne Gillion, "La Mémoire de Robespierre à Arras", Revue du Nord, 71, 1989.

Steven Laurence Kaplan, Farewell, Revolution:  disputed legacies, France 1789/1989 (Cornell,1995) [Extracts on Google Books]

On plans for a new museum:

"La Maison de Robespierre : Communiqué de presse", ARBR 21 March 2017

Articles in La Voix du Nord:

Géraldine Csizmadia , "La Maison Robespierre va accueillir les « enfants d’Arras »",  14.12.2016.

Achille Thomas, "Le comité scientifique en route pour penser le futur de la Maison Robespierre". , 12.02.2017.

Thomas Bourgeois, "Et si demain, les touristes débarquaient pour… visiter la maison de Robespierre?", 08.05.2017

_____,  "Et si le révolutionnaire Robespierre attirait les touristes dans la région?" 28.05.2017.