The assassination of the Duke of Berry

The assassination of the Duke of Berry

The last moments of the Duc de Berry in the hall of the old opera house.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The end of the elder branch?

On February 13, 1820, the Duc de Berry, Monsieur's second son, brother of the king and future Charles X, was assassinated by the saddler worker Louvel at the entrance to the Opera. The assassination of the Duke of Berry had immediate repercussions, however, because it put an end to the appeasement policy led by Louis XVIII and his Prime Minister Decazes, who had to resign on the spot, restoring a preponderant influence to the ultra faction. taken by Monsieur.

Image Analysis

The Duc de Berry expires on a makeshift bed. Cared for by his surgeon, Bougon, "the Prince raises a failing hand on his daughter [presented by his wife], and says to her: Poor child, I wish you were less unhappy than those of your family" (booklet of the Salon of 1824 , where the canvas was exhibited). We can make out Monsieur, kneeling, from the front, and the Duke of Angoulême, brother of the dying man, also kneeling, from behind. To the left of Louis XVIII, who blessed the dying, the Prince of Condé and, to his right, Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orleans. Leaning at the foot of the bed, the Duchess of Orleans and her sister-in-law Madame Adelaide of Orleans. The whole royal family is thus gathered around the dying man, in an attitude of contained sadness imbued with Christian fervor and dignity.

Interpretation

A virtuous death

Menjaud illustrates with this painting a precise historical event that he tries to convey with as much truth as possible (here, mainly in the very realistic rendering of details and the likeness of the portraits). It is also part of a constant theme since the beginnings of neoclassicism, almost three quarters of a century earlier: that of the glorification of the hero, whose virtues are most vividly revealed at the supreme moment of death. For Menjaud, however, it is not only a question of heroizing the figure of the dying man (which we know that he asked the king for "grace for man", that is to say for his murderer), but also to present the story from a more anecdotal and more familiar angle, in scenes easily accessible to the spectator and whose sentimentality maintains only a now rather distant connection with the virile heroism of the artists of the end of the 18th century .

  • assassinations
  • Bourbons
  • Berry (duke of)
  • Louis XVIII
  • ultraroyalism
  • Louis Philippe

Bibliography

Claire CONSTANS National Museum of the Palace of Versailles: Paintings , 2 vol.Paris, RMN, 1995.Francis DÉMIER 19th century France Paris, Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire", 2000.François FURET The Revolution, 1780-1880 Paris, Hachette, 1988, reed. “Pluriel” collection, 1992.Daniel MANACH Descendants of Charles X, King of France Paris, Christian, 1997.Emmanuel de WARESQUIEL, Benoît YVERT History of the Restoration: birth of modern France Paris, Perrin, 1996 Claire CONSTANS National Museum of the Palace of Versailles: Paintings , 2 vol.Paris, RMN, 1995.Francis DÉMIER 19th century France Paris, Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire", 2000.François FURET The Revolution, 1780-1880 Paris, Hachette, 1988, reed. “Pluriel” collection, 1992.Daniel MANACH Descendants of Charles X, King of France Paris, Christian, 1997.Emmanuel de WARESQUIEL, Benoît YVERT History of the Restoration: birth of modern France Paris, Perrin, 1996.

To cite this article

Pascal TORRÈS, "The assassination of the Duke of Berry"


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