Symbolic figures of the IIe Republic

Symbolic figures of the II<sup>e</sup> Republic

  • The Republic.

    CAMBON Armand (1819 - 1885)

  • The Republic.

    DAUMIER Honoré (1808 - 1879)

  • Postage stamp, Republic.

    BAR Jacques-Jean

To close

Title: The Republic.

Author : CAMBON Armand (1819 - 1885)

Creation date : 1848

Date shown: 1848

Dimensions: Height 73 - Width 53

Technique and other indications: sketch for the 1848 competition oil painting on canvas

Storage location: Ingres de Montauban Museum website

Contact copyright: © Ingres Museum, Montauban - Photo Roumagnac

Picture reference: 16.1.33

© Ingres Museum, Montauban - Photo Roumagnac

To close

Title: The Republic.

Author : DAUMIER Honoré (1808 - 1879)

Creation date : 1848

Date shown: 1848

Dimensions: Height 73 - Width 60

Technique and other indications: sketch for the 1848 competition oil painting on canvas

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 87EE1 / RF 1644

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

To close

Title: Postage stamp, Republic.

Author : BAR Jacques-Jean (-)

Creation date : 1849

Date shown: 1848

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Stamp said type "Ceres". 1 Franc.

Storage location: The Address La Poste Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo L’Adresse Musée de La Poste, Paris / La Poste

Postage stamp, Republic.

© Photo L’Adresse Musée de La Poste, Paris / La Poste

Publication date: June 2011


Symbolic figures of the IIe Republic


Historical context

The Revolution of February 1848 brought about a return of the Republicans to power.

From the end of March, the government launched through the press a "appeal to artists" in the form of a competition for "the composition of the symbolic figure of the French Republic"; at the same time, a competition was opened for a sculpted figure of the Republic as well as for the medal commemorating the Revolution of 1848 and the establishment of the Republic.

Image Analysis

The Republic of Cambon is presented as a classic allegory, accompanied by many attributes. She brandishes clenched hands, symbols of harmony, above the tables of the Constitution, surmounted by the egalitarian triangle. The rainbow is a symbol of brotherhood. The hive, also a symbol of brotherhood and work, is completed by the strength of the lion. The tricolor flag identifies the French Republic.

The Republic of Daumier also relies on the tricolor. The famous cartoonist of Charivari made here - and probably for the first time - work of a painter. This Republic, a strong woman with heavy breasts, will often be seen by contemporaries as a Charity. The sign placed at the bottom right by the artist offers an additional interpretive key. The double crow's feet inscribed in a circle and three dots arranged in a triangle belong to the companion vocabulary. The Republic occupies the same function as the Mother of Companions: she nourishes, shelters, protects and instructs her children. Daumier’s sketch is ranked eleventh by the jury. Yet the artist will not make the painting big.

Public imagery takes on a new medium. The first postage stamp, issued on 1er January 1849, shows a Republic capped with a crown marrying the ears of wheat, the grape, and the laurel. This stamp is said to be of the Ceres type, named after the Roman deity of agriculture, harvest and fertility. But he is officially a figure of the Republic. This very wise Republic is perfectly suited to an increasingly conservative regime.


The contest for the symbolic figure of the Republic shows how much Republicans were aware of the importance of the question of the representation of state power. The Republic, abstract, impersonal and collegial, was to be embodied in a visible form the better to fade the memory of the king. The planting of trees of freedom and the maintenance of the tricolor - at the expense of the red - shows that the government wants to act quickly while controlling the emergence of new symbols. The competition procedure, claim of the artists, also reflects the passage in the artistic field of the principle of equality which then prevails with universal suffrage in the political field.

The symbolic image was to prevail among a population that was still not very republican. It had to be both explanatory and reassuring. The republicans of 1848 - from Lamartine to Ledru-Rollin - were concerned with making a regime triumph which could make people forget the Republican precedent of the Terror. The government had given artists complete freedom. However, a circular from Ledru-Rollin, Minister of the Interior in charge of Fine Arts, recalls the spirit that the Fraternal Republic of 1848 must express: “Your composition must unite in one person Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. […] Also keep your airs too belligerent. Think about moral strength above all else. "

The competition will be a failure. The jury, meeting on October 23, renounces to choose among the twenty selected works. The time was no longer for fraternal euphoria: the June workers' uprising and its repression were in everyone's memory.

The history of art will be just as harsh. Posterity will only remember The Republic by Daumier in his pantheon of masterpieces. The sketch entered the national collections in 1906 and is kept today in the Musée d´Orsay. As for the Republic with the Phrygian cap, it remained the property of convinced Republicans, in the opposition from 1849; before being hunted down after the coup d'etat of December 2, 1851.

The return of the republic in 1870 will allow the flourishing of the republican symbolism. Marianne asserts herself as the allegory of the Republic, and soon of France.

  • allegory
  • Second Republic
  • fraternity
  • Marianne
  • Republic
  • Revolution of 1848
  • Universal suffrage
  • Ledru-Rollin (Alexandre)
  • symbols


Maurice AGULHON, Marianne in combat, republican imagery and symbolism from 1789 to 1889, Paris, Flammarion, 1979.

Maurice AGULHON and Pierre BONTE, Marianne. Faces of the Republic, Paris, Gallimard, 1992.

Marie-Claude CHAUDONNERET, Figure of the Republic. The competition of 1848, Paris, RMN, 1987.

Chantal GEORGEL, 1848, artists and the performing arts, Paris, Fayard-RMN, 1998.

To cite this article

Philippe POIRRIER, “The symbolic figures of the IIe Republic "

Video: New England SUP Surfing