Portrait of Father Gérard

Portrait of Father Gérard

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Title: Portrait of Father Gérard, low Breton, member of the National Assembly in 1789.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1789

Date shown: 1789

Dimensions: Height 40.5 - Width 32.5

Technique and other indications: Wood stencil colored on laid paper Letourmy (editor)

Storage place: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzisite web

Picture reference: 02CE11108 / 79.50.1 C

Portrait of Father Gérard, low Breton, member of the National Assembly in 1789.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Publication date: February 2005

Historical context

Gathered in Versailles on May 5, 1789 within the framework of the Estates General, the deputies of the Third Estate declared themselves National Constituent Assembly on July 9, 1789. Among the deputies sat a peasant from the country of Rennes, Michel Gérard (1735-1815), who was soon known as "Père Gérard". Greeted by the King, the day of the presentation of the deputies, by a "Hello, good man!" He became famous for his manners, his costume, and the direct tone of his speeches. We know it from a painting by David (The Convention member Gérard and his family) kept at the Tessé museum in Le Mans.

Image Analysis

Symbol of peasant common sense, the figure of Father Gérard, was used so much by the royalists, who published a pamphlet entitled Motion by Father Gérard, Member of Parliament for Brittany, than by the Republicans. Collot d'Herbois, later known as one of the principal tribunes of the Convention, published in 1792 a libretto entitled Almanac of Father Gérard. Intended to extol to popular audiences the benefits of constitutional monarchy - “O! the good constitution that the French constitution, it ensures peace, tranquility, our happiness and that of our children ”-, it is made up of twelve dialogues between Father Gérard and the peasants, which deal with the nation, with the law , public contributions, courts, etc., by opposing the new Constitution to the old order. Using the same elements, Letourmy for his part edited The True Father Gérard, as well as this image. He uses the composition which serves as the frontispiece to Collot d'Herbois's work, an intaglio whose title, The Father Gérard holds the book of the Constitution and explains it to his fellow citizens, summarizes the scene. The presence of characters in wigs wants to evoke a reconciliation around the Constitution. Thus, the text of the booklet shows Father Gérard swearing loyalty to the receiver of the castle: “The most beautiful triumph of our constitution will be to subdue, by the sheer force of reason, his most declared enemies. Let us not reject the one who comes to swear in good faith, albeit a little late, to remain faithful to him. "


Popular image and peddling literature were used as a means of disseminating ideas to the popular classes. Collot d'Herbois’s libretto thus received the Patriotic Almanac Prize for 1792, awarded to it by the Society of Friends of the Constitution in a competition whose jury included Abbé Grégoire and Condorcet. The counter-revolutionaries replied in the same vein with a Almanac of Abbé Maury. The productions of Parisian literate societies were taken up and reinterpreted by popular publishers in the provinces.

  • Constituent Assembly
  • Brittany
  • deputies
  • States General
  • revolutionary figures
  • popular imagery
  • peasants
  • portrait


Ouzi ELYADA, Popular press and loose sheets of the Revolution, Paris, Société des études robespierristes, 1989.Jeremy POPKIN, Revolutionary News, Durham, Duke University Press, 1990 Albert SOBOUL, Peasants, sans-culottes and Jacobins, Paris, Librairie Clavreuil, 1966. Georges SORIA, Great history of the French Revolution, Paris, Bordas, 1988 Exhibition catalog Images of the Revolution: Orléans imagery during the revolutionary period, Orléans Museum of Fine Arts, 1989.

To cite this article

Frédéric MAGUET, “Portrait of Father Gérard”

Video: Emission spéciale Gérard Depardieu et la littérature - 26 novembre 2015 - La Grande Librairie #LGLf5


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