Return from Varennes to Paris

Return from Varennes to Paris

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Title: Return from Varennes. Arrival of Louis Seize in Paris, June 25, 1791.

Author : DUPLESSI-BERTAUX Jean (1747 - 1819)

Creation date : 1791

Date shown: June 25, 1791

Dimensions: Height 24 - Width 29

Technique and other indications: After a drawing by J.L. Prieur.AE/II/3032Eau-forte colored.

Storage place: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Picture reference: AE / II / 3032

Return from Varennes. Arrival of Louis Seize in Paris, June 25, 1791.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: March 2016


Return from Varennes to Paris


Historical context

After Varennes

Louis XVI was brought back to Paris, by order of the National Assembly, on June 25, 1791, after having attempted to flee abroad. "

Coming from the north-east of Paris, the royal sedan passes in front of the Roule barrier. She follows, for fear of popular agitation, the enclosure of Paris called the wall of the Farmers General [1], to enter the capital by the barrier of the Star, pass, far from the popular districts, by the Champs-Elysées and join the Tuileries.

Jérôme Pétion, one of the three deputies sent by the National Assembly to bring the king back to Paris, recounted this historic moment [2] when confidence in royalty fell.

The king's flight appears to be a betrayal and deeply marks the spirits. After Varennes, the Assembly must give credence to the idea of ​​an abduction of the king to save his project for a constitutional monarchy and to take strong measures to ensure the safety of the king.

Image Analysis

The royal convoy in front of the Roule barrier

The procession is made up of the royal sedan where the King, Queen, Pétion, Barnave, Madame Elisabeth, Madame Royale and the Dauphin are located and, on the seat, three bodyguards; the women on duty occupy a second car; in the third, an open cabriolet shaded by oak branches, is Drouet, who has recognized the king. Sixteen pieces of cannon and 30,000 bayonets escort the convoy.

The drawing by Jean-Louis Prieur, probably contemporary with the event, was etched by Jean Duplessi-Bertaux and reproduced by P. G. Berthault in the Historical paintings of the French Revolution[3]. The print has been enhanced with color without much accuracy. The sedan chosen for this clandestine departure was ordinary and dark. On the other hand, the yellow clothes of the three bodyguards who had served as couriers had been a conspicuous blunder.
The immense crowd of men, women and children throngs on both sides of the road, along the entire length of the wall and on the roofs of the buildings and the Roule barrier, with its brand new architecture due to Claude Nicolas Ledoux. The high four-storey building, inspired by Roman Antiquity and located next to imaginary hills, dominates and magnifies with its majestic gravity the tragic and silent scene.

Inside the sedan, you can see the profiles of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Only the young prince got out of the door, who lets his hat hang, distraught at this incredible situation.


Give a patriotic resonance to the event

Animated by the movement of the arms of the crowd and the volutes of dust raised by the convoy, the scene seems carried by a momentum. The group of soldiers and peasants, one of whom holds a scythe, perched on the roof of the sedan seems a symbolic creation of the artist, made to exalt the role played by the people in the arrest of the king.

In his depiction of violent or tragic scenes from the Revolution, Prieur repeatedly profiled the barriers of Ledoux, whose architecture was directly inspired by Antiquity. At that time, we thought we recognized in Ledoux the setting in which the heroic age of the Roman Republic had passed. This new architecture was not without correspondence with the ideal of ancient values ​​of the Jacobins. The artist was undoubtedly sensitive to it; he was sworn before the Revolutionary Tribunal, before being himself guillotined in Paris on May 6, 1795.

  • Constituent Assembly
  • National Guard
  • Louis XVI
  • Marie Antoinette
  • Paris
  • farmers general wall
  • granting
  • Barnave (Antoine)
  • Pétion de Villeneuve (Jérôme)
  • Champs Elysees


Jérôme PETION OF VILLENEUVE Unpublished memoirs Paris, C. A. Dauban, 1866, .p.196 Collective, Exhibition Ledoux and ParisParis, Rotonde de la Villette, 1979. Cahiers de la Rotonde, n ° 3.Noël LAVEAU Paris Revolution Paris, 1989. Albert SOBOUL (dir.) Historical Dictionary of the Revolution Paris, 1989.

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, "Return from Varennes to Paris"

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