The trial of the Communards

The trial of the Communards

  • Versailles, Session of the Third Council of War.

    ANONYMOUS

  • The prisoners at Versailles.

    ANONYMOUS

To close

Title: Versailles, Session of the Third Council of War.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1871

Date shown: 1871

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: press engraving

Storage place: Saint-Denis Art and History Museum

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

Versailles, Session of the Third Council of War.

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

To close

Title: The prisoners at Versailles.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1871

Date shown: 1871

Dimensions: Height 15 - Width 20.1

Technique and other indications: Cellars in the Orangery where the insurgents to watch are locked up.

Storage place: Saint-Denis Art and History Museum

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

The prisoners at Versailles.

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

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The judicial repression of the Municipality

From the "Bloody Week", with the entry of Versailles troops into Paris, the soldiers of Generals Mac Mahon, Cissey, Vinoy and Galliffet, covered by the authority of Thiers, organized roundups. With more than 60,000 prisoners considered dangerous insurgents, this bloodletting operated in the Parisian population must water the important repressive apparatus set up by Mac-Mahon. The restoration of the law depends on the thoroughness of this vast undertaking.

For more than four consecutive years, twenty-four war councils will sit to hear the trials of almost 35,000 men, more than 800 women and 538 children. Apart from some 2,500 acquittals and about 23,000 orders of dismissal, the war councils meeting in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Sèvres, Rambouillet, Rueil, Saint-Cloud, Vincennes, Chartres or Versailles will show themselves intractable: 93 individuals will have gone through arms at the Satory camp, 250 will be sentenced to forced labor. In addition, several thousand Communards will experience deportation to New Caledonia, in a fortified enclosure for around 1,000 of them, 3,400 being sentenced to simple deportation. To these figures, we must also add 4,500 prison sentences and more than 3,000 sentences in absentia for Communards who have managed to leave France.

Image Analysis

From dungeon to court

These press engravings for documentary purposes make it possible to understand the disparity of individuals arrested because they are considered to have taken an active part in the Commune.

In Lix's drawing, which depicts the prisoners in the semi-darkness of the massive vaults of the cellars of the Orangery of the Palace of Versailles, lives a whole people of anonymous individuals. Seized from behind, squatting in abandoned attitudes, their faces hidden under their hats or tucked into their jackets, these prisoners are devoid of identity, according to the vision of the designer who also takes pleasure in showing them sprawled like animals, carefree or absent. .

This perception is very different from that reflected in the anonymous engraving depicting the 3e Council of War. In this case, the scene is very readable as its composition seeks to reflect the order of military justice. Under the arcades of the fenestration, the dock is perfectly ordered, illustrating the intrusion of order among the actors of the disorder of the Commune. In broad daylight, the accused in costume or in uniform are confronted with their actions before their judges and before the assembly of citizen-spectators in the foreground - among whom the cartoonist is pictured in the left corner.

Interpretation

The "voiceless" and the "tenors"

From one engraving to the next, we perceive the two sides of Versailles justice, which was exercised according to the category to which the accused belonged. The darkness of the anonymous and obscure federates to whom neither justice nor public opinion gave voice; the shining light of the 3e Council of war which judged expeditiously, but with an acute sense of spectacle, the most eminent members of the Commune by pronouncing heavy and disproportionate sentences.

  • communards
  • Municipality of Paris
  • justice
  • jail
  • Versailles repression
  • Versailles
  • Mac Mahon (Patrice de)
  • Thiers (Adolphe)

Bibliography

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

To cite this article

Bertrand TILLIER, "The trial of the Communards"


Video: The Communards - Tomorrow Official Video