The storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789

The storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789

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Title: Storming of the Bastille and arrest of Governor M. de Launay, July 14, 1789.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown: July 14, 1789

Dimensions: Height 58 - Width 73

Technique and other indications: Oil painting on canvas

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

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Picture reference: 15-509300 / MV 5517

Storming of the Bastille and arrest of Governor M. de Launay, July 14, 1789.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: September 2020


The storming of the Bastille


Historical context

The threat of an aristocratic plot following the reunion of

States General

, the news of the dismissal of the minister


, July 11, denounced by

Camille Desmoulins

like the "tocsin of a


des patriots ”, arouse strong emotion in the Parisian people, while the specter of famine looms and the king has massed troops around Paris. A bourgeois militia was formed at the same time as an "insurrectionary municipality" was proclaimed.

Anger rises and eventually sets off the insurgency. The crowd thronging in front of the Bastille did not seek to attack this almost empty state prison, which nevertheless remained a symbol of royal arbitrariness: it was an impregnable fortress. At five 'o' clock,

he capitulated

. He was then massacred, along with the provost of the Flesselles merchants, during his transfer to the Town Hall.

This revolutionary event resulted in the dismissal of troops from Paris, the recall of Necker, the appointment of Bailly at the head of the municipality and that of La Fayette at the head of the national guard.

Image Analysis

This anonymous painting, one of many testimony to an event that inspired many French and foreign artists, painters, designers and engravers of the time, depicts the moment when the governor of Launay is taken to the Hotel of City.

Near the fortress's drawbridge, the ground is littered with the corpses of the French Guards and National Guards who clashed. The pikes and bayonets raised, the smoke of the fires, all combine to dramatize this heroic and liberating moment. The cannons in the foreground evoke the major argument behind the storming of the Bastille: the withdrawal of weapons pointed at the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.


As an engraving from the revolutionary period comments on this composition: "The hideous picture of the most atrocious perfidy had to be hidden from the eye! Launay consummated his crime! Rage is in the hearts, and the desire for revenge shines in all eyes. The artillery is marching, the musketry is rolling fire, the bourgeois militias, the national guards are entering at full speed into the ancient prison, the first enclosure of which is forced ... "

Showing the heroic outburst of the people in action and thirsting for justice: this is what becomes the rule of revolutionary propaganda painting, amplified by the spread of engraving.

  • July 14th
  • Constituent Assembly
  • Desmoulins (Camille)
  • revolutionary days
  • Necker (Jacques)
  • Paris
  • Parisians
  • capture of the Bastille


Christian AMALVI, "July 14", in Pierre NORA (dir), Memorial place, t. 1, “The Republic”, Paris, Gallimard, 1984, reed. coll. "Quarto", 1996.

François FURET, Mona OZOUF, "The taking of the Bastille", in François FURET, Mona OZOUF, Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, Paris, Flammarion, 1988, reed. "Champs" 1992.

François FURET, Denis RICHET, The French Revolution, Paris, Fayard, 1965, reed. 1997.

Jacques GODECHOT, The storming of the Bastille, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "The Thirty Days which made France", 1965.

COLLECTIVE, The French Revolution and Europe 1789-1799, catalog of the exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris, RMN, 1989.

To cite this article

Robert FOHR and Pascal TORRÈS, "The storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789"


Video: The Storming of the Bastille, Paris, 14 July 1789 Pt 1


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