Iconoclasm in Revolutionary Paris

BookIconoclasm in Revolutionary Paris

Iconoclasm in Revolutionary Paris

the Transformation of Signs

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2012:11


November 6th, 2012

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From Ancient Egypt to the Arab Spring, iconoclasm has occurred throughout history and across cultures. Both a vehicle for protest and a means of imagining change, it was rife during the tumultuous years of the French Revolution, and in this richly illustrated book Richard Clay examines how politically diverse groups used such attacks to play out their own complex power struggles.
Drawing on extensive archival evidence to uncover a variety of iconoclastic acts – from the beheading or defacing of sculptures, to the smashing of busts, slashing of paintings and toppling of statues – Clay explores the turbulent political undercurrents in revolutionary Paris. Objects whose physical integrity had been respected for years were now targets for attack: while many revolutionary leaders believed that the aesthetic or historical value of symbols should save them from destruction, Clay argues that few Parisians shared such views. He suggests that beneath this treatment of representational objects lay a sophisticated understanding of the power of public spaces and symbols to convey meaning. Unofficial iconoclasm became a means of exerting influence over government policy, leading to official programmes of systematic iconoclasm that transformed Paris.
Iconoclasm in revolutionary Paris is not only a major contribution to the historiography of so-called ‘vandalism’ during the Revolution, but it also has significant implications for debates about heritage preservation in our own time.

Meticulously researched and powerfully argued, this is a significant contribution to our understanding of iconoclasm at one of its most crucial historitical junctures.
- French studies

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
List of illustrations10
List of abbreviations18
1. Iconoclasm as sign transformation: the Parisian Revolution of 178926
Iconoclasts in the square27
Iconoclasts at the gates34
Iconoclasm and prison: imag(in)ing the Revolution44
2. Catholicism and iconoclasm in Paris, 1789-179060
Introduction: spatial coding and iconoclasm60
Contested spaces, contested objects62
Polyvalency and the first programmes of official Revolutionary iconoclasm74
3. Iconoclasm in Paris in 179190
Politico-religious divisions in Paris90
Iconoclasm at the The´atins in April and June 1791100
Catholic modes of reception in Revolutionary Paris112
Unofficial preservation of nationalised goods128
Official policy on the treatment of representational objects in 1791133
4. Iconoclasm in Paris in 1792148
Statues of kings: love, war and chickens in the pot149
Revolutionary transformations of the statues of kings171
Overturning Parisian statues of kings189
The controversial treatment of Catholic objects214
5. Iconoclasm in Paris, 1793-1795224
Power struggles and the treatment of proscribed signs in 1793224
The belated toppling of statues of kings at Notre-Dame236
Iconoclasm and Revolutionary signs243
De-Christianisation and iconoclasm259
Post-thermidorian reactions to the iconoclasm of the Terror286