Image of the Municipality: the barricade on Boulevard Puebla

Image of the Municipality: the barricade on Boulevard Puebla

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Title: Barricade on Boulevard Puebla.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1871

Date shown: 1871

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: photography

Storage place: Saint-Denis Art and History Museum

Contact copyright: © Saint-Denis, art and history museum - Photo I. Andréani

Barricade on Boulevard Puebla.

© Saint-Denis, art and history museum - Photo I. Andréani

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The barricades of the Municipality

Among the images of the Commune often stands out that of the barricade with its piles of cobblestones behind which insurgents are entrenched. These popular fortifications, eminently linked to the Parisian revolutionary imagination since the days of 1830, are not, however, all identical.

The barricades of the Commune did not appear en masse on March 18, 1871: those that were spontaneously erected in the center of Paris were not used. In the following weeks, the question of barricades was regularly raised within the authorities of the Commune.

Image Analysis

Popular barricades

Little believing in a street war, the Commune set up a Barricades commission which contented itself with building a few imposing defensive works scattered around Paris, without much coherence. The barricade erected at the entrance to the Place de la Concorde, two storeys high, with its moat, its rampart walk and its fortifications, remained a fortress, quickly nicknamed "Château-Gaillard" in allusion to the head barricadier Napoleon Gaillard (1815-1902).

In this anonymous photograph, a barricade is erected across Boulevard Puebla - named after a French victory in the Mexican campaign - which became Rue des Pyrénées by decision of the republican authorities for whom this imperial war had been illegal.

The crude barricade is made up of cobblestones, barrels, gabions, fascines and tree grates. We are a long way from the fortifications, the shapes, sizes and types of which were fixed by Gaillard and Rossel on April 12, 1871. Escaping any type, this barricade is the expression of popular spontaneity. It exists, moreover, as such, as much by its accumulation of materials as by the National Guards who bristle it with their brandished rifles.

Built as a military defense structure, it was also, on the occasion of this photograph, the site of a popular demonstration. Judging by the proud and calm attitude of the soldier perched on top of the structure or by that of the Federals kneeling at the foot of the fortification. It is finally necessary to take into account the common people, in particular the men in blouses, who are held around it. These presences and attitudes combine to make the barricade a military and civilian element, at the same time as a festive and identifying place.

Interpretation

"Rags of ramparts"

If the Federals and Communards in this photograph still pose proudly and happily near their barricade, the atmosphere will soon change. Two days before the start of "Bloody Week", the Official newspaper of the Municipality publishes a notice inviting "the workers who know how to make gabions, fascines and wattle [to] present themselves every day to the engineering department […]".

But the measure is too late. Barricades will be hastily improvised by men, women and children through the streets, like makeshift roadblocks that have arisen without consultation and which will prove to be as fragile as they are useless. These popular barricades were quickly taken from the rear and "cleaned" by the Versailles troops. With compassion but not without criticism, Lissagaray considers them as "rags of ramparts" (History of the Municipality of 1871, 1876).

  • barricades
  • communards
  • Municipality of Paris
  • federated
  • National Guard
  • Paris
  • insurrection

Bibliography

Alain DALOTEL, "The last barricade of the Municipality of 1871", Gavroche, no 111-112, May-August 2000, p. 1-8.

Alain DALOTEL and Jean-Claude FREIERMUTH, "The barricades of the Commune", Gavroche, no 3, April-May 1982, p. 14-20.

Prosper-Olivier LISSAGARAY, History of the Paris Commune in 1871, [1876], Paris, La Découverte, 1991.

Bernard NOËL, Municipality dictionary, 2 vol., [1971], Paris, Flammarion, coll. "Champs", 1978.

To cite this article

Bertrand TILLIER, “Image of the Municipality: the barricade on boulevard Puebla”


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