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Storied Past

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Study for 'A quelle sauce...?' ['What to Make of It?']

circa 1872
19th century
28 cm x 22.4 cm (11 in. x 8 13/16 in.)

A. Belloguet (active 1850 - 1870) Primary

Object Type: drawing
Artist Nationality: Europe, French
Medium and Support: Pen and brown ink over graphite on wove paper
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Alvin and Ethel Romansky, 1977
Accession Number: 1982.294

Adolphe Thiers, the new president of the French Republic, is shown taking snuff, trodding on the old Empire, and wearing the Phrygian cap, a familiar revolutionary symbol. However, beneath his costume can be seen an aristocratic ponytail and knee breeches, which indicate his secret sympathies for the ancien régime. On the right is a candle labled as the "Republic" being snuffed out by "reaction," and on the rear wall looms the shadow of the Gallic cock. The accompanying quatrain suggests that Thiers should take advice from the September rays (a reference to Septemer 1870, the date of Napoléon III's defeat and abdication), cast off his cotton cap (or let fall his disguise), and "say to Bertrand: I'm not Raton," Bertrand and Raton were familiar characters from a La Fontaine fable who represent the clever associate and accomplice, Bertrand, and the dupe or fall man, Raton. The cartoon is therefore advising Thiers to quit playing games and refuse to be duped. The event that probably triggered this cartoon was the so-called "bonnets à poil" affair of June 20, 1872, in which nine royalist members of the legislature tried to solicit Thiers' support. Thiers, who remained a conservative Republican, refused this collaboration, but was forced out of the presidency in May 1873.

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