Popular repression of the Municipality

Popular repression of the Municipality

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Title: The Execution of Varlin.

Author : LUCE Maximilien (1858 - 1941)

Creation date : 1910

Date shown: May 28, 1871

Dimensions: Height 89 - Width 116

Technique and other indications: Oil painting on canvas

Storage place: Mantes-la-Jolie Hotel-Dieu Museum website

Contact copyright: © Coll. Hôtel-Dieu museum, Mantes-la-Jolie / Photo credit: André Morain

© Coll. Hôtel-Dieu museum, Mantes-la-Jolie / Photo credit: André Morain

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

A commitment in the Municipality: Eugène Varlin

Born in 1839 and a bookbinder by trade, Eugène Varlin is representative of the specialized workers who made up the Parisian working class of that time.

At the turn of the 1860s, he founded fraternal benefit, savings and loan societies for bookbinders. He then also joined the International Association of Workers (AIT) founded in 1864.

From 1867, his political activity prevails: founder of the cooperative "La Marmite", member of the Paris office of the International, instigator of "La Caisse du sou", intended to support the strikers, he becomes a speaker advocating the need for social revolution without which political revolution would be nothing. Elected to the Commune Council, he successively sits on the Finance and Subsistence Committees, where he represents the anti-authoritarian socialists close to the Proudhonists opposed to the Jacobins and the Blanquists.

Image Analysis

The repression of the Municipality

During the "Bloody Week", Eugène Varlin organizes and directs the defense of the Commune in the VIe and XIe boroughs. Rue Haxo, he tried in vain to oppose the execution of some fifty people - priests, Paris guards and civilians - demanded by an electrified crowd. Until the Commune was crushed, Varlin continued to fight.

On May 28, in the afternoon, when he had dozed off on a bench in rue Lafayette, he was recognized by a passer-by. Arrested, he was taken to Montmartre, under the insults and blows. In his History of the Paris Commune in 1871 (1876), Lissagaray wrote about him: “Through the steep streets of Montmartre, he who had risked his life to save the hostages in the rue Haxo, was dragged for a long hour. Under the hail of blows, his meditative young head which had never had anything but brotherly thoughts grew into a mince of flesh, the eye hanging out of orbit. "

This is the moment that Luce represents in a work that belongs to a series of ten paintings made from 1910 to 1917.


A martyr of the Commune

If Luce was very interested in the Commune, in paintings and lithographs, and more particularly in the episode of Varlin's death, it is out of political sympathy for the communard movement, while he evolves in circles libertarians.

But the representation of Varlin's last moments goes beyond the simple attempt at historical or documentary reconstruction. Indeed, Luce intends to commemorate Varlin's "ordeal" in this way, as Lissagaray described it, who, referring to his tragic and exemplary end, had this formula: "The Mount of Martyrs has never had a more glorious one. "

Through her work, Luce seeks to establish a martyrology of the Commune, where the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, recognized as being of public utility, was built to expiate the crimes of the Commune.

  • communards
  • Municipality of Paris
  • execution
  • martyr
  • political opponents
  • Versailles repression
  • socialism


Michel CORDILLOT, Eugène Varlin, Chronicle of a Murdered Hope, Paris, Éditions Ouvrières, coll. "La Part des hommes", 1991.

Prosper-Olivier LISSAGARAY, History of the Paris Commune in 1871, [1876], Paris, La Découverte, 1991.

Bernard NOËL, Municipality dictionary, 2 vol., [1971], Paris, Flammarion, coll. "Champs", 1978.

Jacques ROUGERIE, Free Paris, 1871, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, coll. "Politics", 1971.

To cite this article

Bertrand TILLIER, "Popular repression of the Commune"

Video: What are Municipalities and How are They Structured?


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