The sling

The sling

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Title: Fight between two horsemen, Faubourg Saint-Antoine under the walls of the Bastille counter-escarp.

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 50 - Width 72.5

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / All rights reserved

Picture reference: 90-000078 / MV6818

Fight between two horsemen, Faubourg Saint-Antoine under the walls of the Bastille counter-escarp.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / All rights reserved

Publication date: November 2012

Academy Inspector Deputy Academic Director

Historical context

The Fronde of the Princes and the Control of Paris

Since 1648, the ministry of Cardinal Mazarin, supported by the regent Anne of Austria, mother of the young Louis XIV, has come up against the hostility of the Parliament of Paris, which considers itself in a position of strength to extract an extension of its powers. , then to that of certain princes, who consider themselves capable of participating in the management of the kingdom. In March 1649, the parliamentary Fronde ended. This Fronde, known as the "Fronde des Princes", takes on the aspects of civil war and is marked by numerous events and changes of alliance on the part of the great lords.

In 1652, Paris once again became a major strategic stake. The Prince de Condé tries to unite the various "parties" of the Fronde. Condé skirted the ramparts of the capital when the royal armies of Marshals Turenne and La Ferté attacked him on July 2, near the Porte Saint-Antoine. A disproportionate fight engages in a strongly urbanized environment: the army of Condé finds its salvation - at the cost of numerous losses - only in the courage of its leader and especially in the initiative of the Grande Mademoiselle, cousin of the king, who opened the Saint-Antoine gate and fired the cannons of the Bastille against the royal soldiers. Presumably this was a commission from the royal entourage celebrating, unequivocally, the last significant fight of the Fronde.

Image Analysis

The battles of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine

The composition reveals two distinct scenes. In the foreground, a duel between two horsemen while a third is on the ground. In the background, a swirling cavalry fight is lost in a cloud of dust. The Bastille counter-escarp - dominated by the imposing silhouette of the fortress - serves as a support for reading the painting, from right to left, and blocks the horizon, thus transforming the place into a theater where the action takes place. rage. A standard bearer, located in the center of the composition, makes the link. The artist wanted to account for the violence of the fighting, the speed of the action due to the collision of the Condean and Royal cavalry, the personalization of clashes which saw many nobles disappear (among them, the Duke of Nemours or Mazarin's nephew). The choice to represent the Bastille - even if its cannons do not thunder here - and not the houses of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, where the fighting mainly took place, serves the project of ennobling the representation of the civil war: the cavalry is the most prestigious of the corps, in which serve many nobles.


The spectacle of civil war

The battlefield is transformed by the artist into a theatrical scene which the spectator contemplates as the site of a tragic action where the heroes clash. This day was to be the day of the annihilation of the Condean army, declared rebellious to royal authority. The king and his entourage had moreover taken place on the heights of Charonne, to watch the fighting. The artistic resumption of one of the battles of the Fronde, a painful episode in the youth of Louis XIV, is undoubtedly linked to the appreciation of Condé, who on July 2, 1652 demonstrated a recognized bravery on both sides. The battles in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine were also the last of the Fronde around Paris. On July 4, the "princes" attempted a coup against the Hôtel de Ville to ally the Parisians, but only succeeded in fueling mistrust of them and strengthening the camp of supporters of the legitimate government. While the rallies to the king - major since September 7, 1651 - multiplied, Condé left Paris on October 14 and put himself at the service of Spain. Louis XIV made his entry into the capital on October 21, 1652. The Parisian Fronde lived, but the king kept a traumatic mistrust of the capital and the high nobility. The king’s victory is one of the main themes of state propaganda around the pacification of the kingdom by Louis XIV.

  • Sling
  • army
  • Louis XIV
  • absolute monarchy
  • Anne of Austria
  • Mazarin (cardinal of)
  • Grande Mademoiselle
  • Bastille


Simone BERTIÈRE, Condé, the misguided hero, Paris, Editions de Fallois, 2011.

Robert DESCIMON and Christian JOUHAUD, France in the first 17th century 1594-1661, Paris, Belin, 1996.

Michel PERNOT, The sling, Paris, Éditions de Fallois, Paris, 1994.

Orest RANUM, The sling, Paris, Le Seuil, 1995.

To cite this article

Jean HUBAC, "The Fronde"