The revolt of the stamped paper

The revolt of the stamped paper

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Title: Allegory of the revolt of stamped paper.

Author : CHALETTE Jean Bernard (1631 -)

Creation date : 1676

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 105 - Width 150

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Rennes Museum of Fine Arts website

Contact copyright: © Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Adelaide Beaudoin

Picture reference: 05-519129 / INV1860-1-1

Allegory of the revolt of stamped paper.

© Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Adelaide Beaudoin

Publication date: June 2013

Historical context

The last great popular revolt

The revolt of stamped paper, or red caps, which broke out in Brittany in July 1675 was the last great popular revolt of the 17th century.e century in France. Louis XIV, at war with the United Provinces, needs money. To remedy this, Colbert decides to sell offices, to increase taxes (size, aid, salt tax…) and to invent others: customs tax, tax on pewter dishes, on stamped paper… This last measure, which obliges to stamp notarial acts, causes a wave of protests in Brittany, a province attached relatively recently to the French crown (1532) and which knew until then a system of exemptions and freedoms. These taxes, decided without consultation and without the approval of the states of the province of Brittany, provoked initially urban uprisings (Rennes, April 18, 1675, Nantes, Dinan, Vannes, Guingamp ...), then finally villagers.

The repression is quickly put in place but, for more than three months, the constituted authorities (the governor, the Duke of Chaulnes, the lieutenants of upper and lower Brittany) are unable to control the situation. They even draft a "peasant code", demanding both "the freedom of the armoric province" and the suppression of seigneurial rights. These movements to challenge the king's authority and social order were violently repressed: the Rennes parliament, deemed too lax, was exiled to Vannes, and the Duke of Chaulnes, who had obtained military reinforcements, practiced expeditious trials. and summary executions. All of these measures will soon restore calm and submission.

Image Analysis

A critique of Louis XIV's tax policy

Jean-Bernard Chalette, born in 1631, is the son of Jean Chalette (1581-1644), established in Toulouse as a portrait painter. He will teach his son the basics of painting. Upon his death, Jean-Bernard was welcomed into the studio of his successor, Antoine Durant. A master painter in 1661, Chalette left Toulouse, his hometown, and we found him in 1663 in Rennes as director of the "interior ornaments" site of the Parliament of Brittany. He then produced many paintings including theAllegory of the revolt stamped paper, now kept in the Rennes museum.

Commissioned by Monsignor Jean de La Monneraye, apostolic prothonotary and archdeacon of Rennes, whose arms appear in the lower right-hand corner of the table, the work criticizes the fiscal policy of Louis XIV and that of the governor of Brittany, architect of repression : the Duke of Chaulnes. The latter may be depicted as the repulsive and evil creature driving the chariot pulled by two fierce tigers or as the monstrous being visible in the background in front of the burning city. The chariot is guided by a man seated on a throne. At his feet lie sacks of gold, chests full of jewels and precious stones. Around the chariot are lifeless armored men and the recumbent bodies of women and children. In the foreground on the right, sheltered by a hanging, the allegories of Justice and Peace, two young women dressed in the antique style and surrounded by their respective symbolic attributes (scales for one, laurel wreath for the other), seem to converse and take no interest in the scenes of violence that unfold in front of them.


A controversial allegory

The painting is dated 1676, barely a year after the uprising. Visible in the center in a cartouche, the inscription "The rich and the poor are unjustly grieved [sic] ”Is a clear indication of his point. Verse 2 of Psalm LVII, "Si vere utique justitiam loquimini, RECTA judicate, filii hominum "(" If you are really talking about justice, judge RIGHTLY, children of men "), reinforces the argument presented in the table.

The work, in an allegorical form, comments in a polemical way on the fiscal policy of the French state and the repression which followed in Brittany the revolt of the stamped paper. The chariot, driven by a devil, crushing the population, symbolizes the state and its unjust taxes. Justice and Peace prefer to ignore the scene and the violence and murders committed around them. The excerpt from the Psalm of David implies that this new tax was decided without concern for fairness. The city in flames is reminiscent of the fires that broke out in Rennes during the repression carried out by the Duke of Chaulnes, one of the monstrous beings under the orders of the monarch who seems to have thereby signed a pact with the devil.

  • Brittany
  • Louis XIV
  • allegory
  • absolute monarchy
  • Colbert (Jean-Baptiste)
  • Great Century
  • Reindeer
  • tax
  • tax


Yvon GARLAN and Claude NIÈRES, The Breton Revolts of 1675. Stamped paper and red caps, Paris, Social editions, 1975.

· "Jean-Bernard Chalette, master painter in Rennes in the 17th century", in Bulletin of the Friends of the Rennes Museum, 1979.

To cite this article

Pascal DUPUY, "The revolt of stamped paper"

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