Louis XVI guillotined

Louis XVI guillotined

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  • Farewell of Louis XVI to his family, January 20, 1793

    BENAZECH Charles (1767 - 1794)

  • Louis XVI and Abbot Edgeworth de Firmont at the foot of the scaffold, January 21, 1793

    BENAZECH Charles (1767 - 1794)

Farewell of Louis XVI to his family, January 20, 1793

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Louis XVI and Abbot Edgeworth de Firmont at the foot of the scaffold, January 21, 1793

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: October 2003

Historical context

The fall of the monarchy on August 10, 1792, in a context of military setbacks, led to the proclamation of the Republic and the meeting of the Convention on September 21, 1792. Le Marais and the undecided people rallied to his speech, but the vote that followed decided death only with a majority vote (361 for, 360 against).
Imprisoned in the Temple with his family, Louis XVI said his farewells on January 20, 1793 and was executed the next day.

Image Analysis

These English works were painted in 1793 in shock with emotion, according to the testimonies of Father Edgeworth, authorized to assist the condemned sovereign. The first table illustrates this passage: “For nearly an hour, we did not articulate a word; it was neither tears nor sobs, but cries piercing enough to be heard outside the tower. The king, the queen, Madame Elisabeth (sister of the king), Monsieur the Dauphin and Madame (daughter of the king) all lamented at the same time, and the voices seemed to merge ”. Bénazech translated this text by wide and outrageous gestures, by a tangle of human forms where the royal family seems very humanized. The dark atmosphere of the room, lit by a single window in front of which shines the crucifix, brings out the whiteness of the royal costumes, a symbol of innocence and purity.
The second painting evokes the moment when Louis XVI, ready to climb on the scaffold, turns to the people to address them: "I am dying innocent of the crimes of which I am accused". The commander of the National Guard, Santerre, then gives the order to beat the drum to drown the voice of the fallen sovereign. The only figure dressed in white, Louis XVI climbs the stairs while Father Edgeworth utters the famous phrase: "Son of Saint Louis, ascend to heaven". So these are two moments that Bénazech has synthesized in this painting, which also respects the truth. Louis XVI did not yet have his hands tied behind his back when his hair was cut.


Clumsy, documentaries rather than artistic, Bénazech's two paintings anticipate all the legends that will be spread about these key moments in the history of France. These images did a lot to develop the cult of the king. Anecdotal, they are mostly representative of historical illustration.

  • execution
  • Louis XVI
  • French Revolution
  • guillotine
  • monarchy


Hélène BOISSY from ANGLAS, François Antoine de Boissy d'Anglas Biography , Paris, L'Harmattan, 2001 Christine LE BOZEC Boissy d'Anglas: a great liberal notable Toulouse, Privat, 1994 François FURETThinking about the French RevolutionParis, Gallimard, 1978, reed. "Folio Histoire", 1985.Claire CONSTANSCatalogue des paintings de Versailles, tome IIParis, RMN, 1995.François FURET and Mona OZOUF (ed.) Critical Dictionary of the French RevolutionParis, Flammarion, 1988 , rééd.coll. “Champs”, 1992. Marie-Claude CHAUDONNERET “The 1830 competition for the Chamber of Deputies: two sketches by A.-E.Fragonard at the Louvre”, in La Revue du Louvre, n ° 21987.

To cite this article

Jérémie BENOÎT, "Louis XVI guillotined"

Video: Lady Jane 1986 - Execution


  1. Nesto

    5-point - C grade.

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