Wine, symbol of the Nation

Wine, symbol of the Nation

  • Louis XVI had put on the red cap; day of June 20, 1792.


  • Credit clock.

To close

Title: Louis XVI had put on the red cap; day of June 20, 1792.

Author : VILLENEUVE (-)

Date shown: June 20, 1792

Dimensions: Height 23 - Width 17.3

Technique and other indications: Etching in color.

Storage place: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Coursaget web site

Picture reference: 99-016306 / 23342LR

Louis XVI had put on the red cap; day of June 20, 1792.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Coursaget

To close

Title: Credit clock.

Author :

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 40.6 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Wire wood, stencil. Gangel printing press.

Storage place: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Magesite web

Picture reference: 05-526878 / 72.83.21D

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Mage

Publication date: November 2009

Historical context

The day of June 20, 1792

On June 17, 1789, the Third Estate proclaimed itself the National Assembly. The Constitution, approved by the king on September 13, 1791, transfers the sovereignty of the king to the “Nation” and organizes a constitutional monarchy based on the separation of powers and in which Louis XVI holds the executive power, which guarantees him a right of veto. and notably authorizes it to appoint or dismiss ministers. The palace is finally evacuated.

Image Analysis

The symbolic use of the representation of wine

The first picture, Louis XVI had put on the red cap; June 20, 1792, is a print produced by Villeneuve, author of numerous engravings and historical representations which feature great moments of the revolutionary period and which, like this print, have been widely distributed. It represents the king standing, wearing the Phrygian cap adorned with the tricolor cockade, drinking from the bottle the words “Vive la Nation”, arranged to represent a liquid. The monarch's gaze, directed straight towards the spectator, is a little lost, sad and melancholy. The print is accompanied by a text:

« Louis XVI had put on the Red Cap, he had cried Vive la Nation, he had drunk to the health of no panties, he had affected the greatest calm, he had said loudly that he would never fear, that he would never have to fear in the midst of the people; finally, he seemed to take a personal part in the insurrection of June 20. Well ! this same Louis XVI bravely waited until his fellow citizens had returned to their homes to wage an occult war against them and exercise his vengeance. »

The second image, Credit clock, dating from the period 1835-1840, was intended to be displayed in cabarets. The boss designates a “credit clock” above which runs the text “when the rooster crows, credit will be given”. As the establishment is closed to rooster crow, the image is intended to let customers know that the house does not give credit. Around a table set outside between two trees, French people of all conditions and all functions, symbolized by their clothes, clink glasses and drink red wine (a bottle on the table, a basket of empty bottles on the ground, a bottle overturned on the ground). Soldiers of different corps and ranks, two commoners, a better-off man and a man of cultivated appearance with hat and glasses make up this assembly where the colors blue, white and red dominate (clothes, rooster, wine). In the background, we see a village and its bell tower. On the sides, two legends arranged in reverse: "Aunion des français [sic] "And" To the union of peoples ". At the bottom, “Let's drink to the happiness of France”.


Wine, sign and symbol of the French Nation

The two representations, although very different in their time and function, use wine to signify France, revealing (and helping to affirm) the place of drink in the national imagination.

In Louis XVI had put on the red cap; June 20, 1792, the wine that comes out of the bottle "speaks" of this nation. Better: he identifies with it. If the insurgents of June 20 wanted to make the king drink, it was also to give him, by force, the position of a citizen like any other. Drinking the wine of the nation is like a civic ritual, which makes one belong to it. Thus, the collective consciousness of belonging to the same community, which has defined the modern idea of ​​nation since the French Revolution, can be "read" in wine. Coming from France and the people, wine is one of the vectors and signs of this community of belonging and of the unity of the nation.

In a more diffuse way, Credit clock also makes wine, no longer the only one, but one of the symbols of the nation (with the rooster, the three colors and the bell tower). The men gathered here constitute a real "National Assembly": they represent the various "peoples" of France, who merge into the unity both figured and realized by the meeting around wine. Here again, the drink acts as a unifying talisman, which tacitly and daily renews the national oath: around wine, we always toast at least implicitly to France and, it is quite the same, to the union of the French.

  • popular imagery
  • revolutionary days
  • Louis XVI
  • wine


François FURET and Mona OZOUF (dir.), Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, Paris, Flammarion, 1988.Gilbert GARRIER, Social and cultural history of wine, Paris, Bordas Cultures, 1995. Michel VOVELLE, The fall of the monarchy, volume 1 of the New history of contemporary France, Paris, Seuil, 1972.

To cite this article

Alban SUMPF, "The wine symbol of the Nation"

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