The advent of national sovereignty

The advent of national sovereignty

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Title: Mirabeau in front of Dreux-Brézé (June 23, 1789).

Author : DELACROIX Eugène (1798 - 1863)

Creation date : 1831

Date shown: June 23, 1789

Dimensions: Height 68 - Width 82

Technique and other indications: sketch for the painting of the 1831 competition for the decoration of the meeting room at the Palais Bourbon Oil on canvas

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Picture reference: 99DE12256 / RF 1953-41

Mirabeau in front of Dreux-Brézé (June 23, 1789).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

On June 17, 1789, six weeks after the opening of the Estates General, the Third Estate, joined by part of the clergy, proclaimed itself the National Assembly. On July 9, the National Assembly becomes constituent.

Image Analysis

This work is the preliminary sketch of the painting presented at the State Competition of 1831 (NyCarlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen), for the decoration of the Salle des Sessions at the Palais-Bourbon. The scene is organized in two planes. In a corner of the room, in perspective, the foreground, in a dark tone. A sober but lighted colonnade, under a rather baroque entablature and a barely suggested corner of the ceiling, serves as a background; the black notes represent the soldiers. Standing in the center, hat in hand, impetuous gesture, is Mirabeau. He is seen in front of a mass of deputies, uniformly dressed in a dark and strict robe. They are impressive in strength and determination.

Dreux-Brézé, in front of him, to the right, elegant and slender, is followed by the king's massiers, dressed in shimmering dalmatics with fleur-de-lis. In front of them, we can make out sketched chair backs. Behind, the empty throne surmounted by a canopy is nothing more than a specter.

A quick sketch, with the spontaneous and energetic touch of the romantics, this work is considered by the critic Astruc as "a masterpiece of color, simplicity, dramatic life". Having favored aesthetics over historical reality, freedom of creation over the official program, Delacroix did not see his project selected, especially since he only dealt with two of the three subjects proposed for the competition: Mirabeau and Boissy d'Anglas.


In Guizot's eyes, the choice of this key episode in the French Revolution was to consolidate the people's attachment to the constitutional monarchy. Mirabeau repelling Dreux-Brézé indeed embodies the representatives of the nation against the threat of the executive power. Delacroix, however, does not obey the narrative program here like the winners Hesse and Vinchon. He does not celebrate the event, he tends, only by means of painting, towards the ideal. The fiery touch, the light, the color highlights, convey the deep meaning of the story. Doesn't the acting red of the carpets and seats refer to the bloody period of the Revolution? And doesn't the chiaroscuro make the scene face to face beyond the people: the Ancien Régime and the Revolution, the court and the nation, the nobility and the people, privileges and equality, end of despotism and the start of a new era?

  • National Assembly
  • democracy
  • deputies
  • States General
  • revolutionary figures
  • Mirabeau (Honoré Gabriel Riqueti de)
  • Third state


François FURET and Mona OZOUF Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution Paris, Flammarion, 1988, reed. "Champs" collection, 1992. Speakers of the French Revolution , tome IParis, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1989. Barthélemy JOBERT Delacroix Paris, Gallimard, 1997.

To cite this article

Malika DORBANI-BOUABDELLAH, "The advent of national sovereignty"

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