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Collot díHerbois:
Images & Scenes With His Participation


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1.

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The Freedom Festival, held in Paris on 15 April 1792 in order to celebrate the release to freedom of the soldiers of the Châteauvieux Regiment, unjustly sentenced to galleys. They were liberated thanks to a long campaign led by Collot d’Herbois.

It is in this ceremony that Paris first saw the Phrygian cap, which soon became one of the most enduring symbols of the French Revolution.

2.

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Trial of the King at the National Convention, January 1793. Collot díHerbois is shown in the uppermost row, on the benches occupied by the deputies of the Mountain party, left bottom corner. Collot is leaning forward to speak with Billaud-Varenne.

Collot was absent on mission for most of the Louis's trial but he returned in time to take part in the vote on the sentence. He voted for death.

3.

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The Committee of the Year II. Engraving by Jean-Baptiste Huet fils, circa 1793.

Contrary to a wide-spread mistaken belief, this contemporary cartoon does not represent the Committee of Public Safety. It shows a revolutionary committee in the process of issuing Certificats de civisme (Certificates of Good Citizenship). This committe is probably the surveillance committee of one of the Parisian sections. It is equally possible that the scene is taking place at the Commune of Paris since the Conseil Général of the Commune had the ultimate responsibility for issuing the Certificats de civisme in Paris. The Jacobins were closely involved with the committees issuing these certificates. Here, two prominent members of the Jacobins are present, Collot d'Herbois and Robespierre (or possibly Hérault de Séchelle).

The elderly man holding out his unstamped certificate appears to be the Girondin minister of the Interiour, Roland. The law required all public office holders to obtain a certificate of good citizenship, hence Roland's application. As Roland asks the committee to approve and stamp his certificate, they react with indignation and disbelief. Collot had attacked the Girondin minister at the Jacobins on multiple occasions, so the angry look he casts in his direction is no surprise.

4.

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A Revolutionary Committee of 1793. A colour version of the above.

5.

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The Committee of Public Safety.

Engraving by E. Bure after a drawing by Félix Philippoteaux.

From left to right clockwise: Louis-Antoine Saint-Just (standing), Maximilien Robespierre, Georges Couthon, Jacques-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne, Robert Lindet (with long hair, standing), Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois, Bertrand Barère, Prieur de la Côte-d'Or (standing), Carnot.

The Committee is here gathered in plenary meeting, which was where the most important matters were discussed. Collot díHerbois, with jet black hair, is sitting at the far end of the table, listening with intense concentration. Billaud-Varenne is equally absorbed in reflection over Saint-Just’s proposals to the Committee.

6.

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Carnot Organising Victory At The Committee of Public Safety in 1794.

Painting by Félix Dupuis.
First exhibited at the Salon de peinture et de sculpture in 1884.

Carnot is standing in the centre, with his arm raised.
To his right are seated Prieur, Billaud-Varenne, Collot d’Herbois, Barère.
To his left are seated Lindet, Couthon, Saint-Just, Robespierre. Opposite Carnot, a general.

 

7.

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Collot d’Herbois overseeing the demolition works in Place Bellecour. Lyon, 1793. Engraving by J. Ladmiral after a drawing by Félix Philippoteaux.

The application of the Convention’s decree on destruction of the houses of the rich in Lyon is being supervised by two Representatives on mission (in the distance, on horseback, with tricolour scarves). Much has been made of these demolition works but in reality only a handful of buildings were torn down in order to satisfy the decree, mostly those buildings that had been irreparably damaged by the bombardment during the siege, or otherwise ripe for demolition as part of the regeneration of the city. Demolition works provided jobs for a significant part of the city's unemployed.

8.

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Collot díHerbois and the Republican Triumph in Lyon. Anonymous engraving.

This is a 'patriotic' drawing, depicting the Republic’s triumph over the royalist rebellion at Lyon. A possible interpretation: Collot díHerbois is supporting the allegorical figure of Justice, who leans slightly on him. She holds the symbolic scales in her hand. At her feet, are lying the defeated figures of treason and rebellion.

9.

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Admirat's assassination attempt against Collot díHerbois. May 1794.
Henri Admirat (pronounced "Amira"; frequently misspelled as 'Admiral', 'Ladmiral', 'Amiral' or 'Lamiral') lived in the same building as Collot. He bore many grudges against the Revolution, not least for closing down the public lottery of which he had been an employee, and making him redundant. He decided to assassinate Collot and had lain in wait for his victim, armed with two pistols. Collot was returning home around one in the morning. His housekeeper came out to meet him with a candle in her hand. At that moment, Admirat jumped out of his hiding place, and fired a pistol at Collot at point blank range.

10.

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L'Admiral attempting to assassinate Collot díHerbois.
Engraving by Alfred Johannot after Revel.

The first pistol misfired. Collot managed to avoid the second shot by leaning backwards. He then defended himself with his sword and prevented the assassin's escape from the building. Admirat barricaded himself in his flat. Meanwhile the sounds of pistol shots and the screams of the housekeeper calling for help alerted the National Guards who were patrolling the streets nearby.

11.

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Geoffroy arresting Amiral, would-be assassin of Collot díHerbois.
Engraving by Marchand after a drawing by Desray, published by Basset.

Admirat refused to give himself up. From behind the door, he threatened to shoot at the first person to penetrate into the flat. Admirat was eventually arrested but not before seriously wounding a man named Geoffroy who was helping the National Guards to gain entry into the flat. Geoffroy's bravery instantly brought him enormous popularity and celebrity; he was regarded as a 'martyr of liberty'.

12.

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Collot díHerbois expelled from the Jacobin Club. Le 8 thermidor an II.
Engraving by Alfred Johannot after Mauduit.

Collot díHerbois and Billaud-Varenne came to the Jacobins in the evening of 8 thermidor in order to make one final attempt at reconciliation with Robespierre. The Jacobins whipped into frenzy by Robespierre's speech against the Committee, received Collot and Billaud with extreme hostility, refused to let them speak, showered them with abuse and threw them out of the club. Robespierre did nothing to stop this violent behaviour of his supporters toward his colleagues. The last chance of reconciliation was lost.

13.

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9 Thermidor at the National Convention.

Collot díHerbois is presiding over the Assembly. He is seen raising his hand, struggling to bring the deputies to order, as a fierce struggle rages around the rostrum.

14.

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The people attempting to stop Collot díHerboisí deportation.
Engraving by Tony Johannot after Blanchard.

The real events do not correspond exactly to what the contemporary drawings depict. In fact, Collot's carriage had left Paris early in the morning, avoiding crowds. Billaud-Varenne and Barère were to follow later.

15.

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Departure of former deputies Billaud, Collot and Barrere for deportation, 1 April 1795, or 12 Germinal Year III of the Republic. Engraving by Abraham Girardet (1763-1823) after a drawing by Pierre-Gabriel Berthault (1737-1831). 1802.

Another engraving representing the public unrest that ensued as the news of Collot, Billaud and Barère's deportation spread through Paris. General Pichegru, ironically also soon to be deported to French Guiana where he would perish, played a crucial role in dispersing the sans-culottes who attempted to rescue Collot díHerbois and his former colleagues.

16.

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Abreise der Exdeputirten Billaud, Collot und Barrere zur Deportation (Departure of former deputies Billaud, Collot and Barrere for deportation). 1817.

Engraving by Anton Krüger (1795-1857), based on the above engraving by Girardet after Berthault. Etching; a hand-coloured version.

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