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La Restitution ou Chaqu’un Son Compte c.1815

  • Author: Anonymous
  • Date: c.1815
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 32 x 23 cms

Description:

Rare map-themed Napoleonic caricature, anticipating the redrawing of European boundaries agreed at the Congress of Vienna,1814-15

About this piece:

Anonymous

c.1815

La Restitution ou Chaqu’un Son Compte

Sheet: 32 x 23 cms. Original hand colour. Contemporary inked number “74” added in top right corner, just intruding beyond line border into image. Bottom margin slightly cropped (originally so), with loss of final text line with imprint “déposée à la dir.on Générale de l’imprimerie” at bottom right. Traces of old folds and contemporary ink ownership inscription on verso. Area of light soiling in upper right corner of verso, not affecting recto image. Couple of almost invisible hairline splits at lower sheet edge on ends of old folds, just intruding into printed letterpress key below engraving, now expertly reinforced with archival tissue on verso. Virtually invisible pinhole at centre of image on fold juncture. In all an attractive and well-preserved example.

Extremely rare Napoleonic caricature with an unusual & entertaining map theme which alludes to the redrawing of the territorial boundaries of Europe in the wake of Napoleon’s defeat by the Allied Coalition Powers at the Battle of Leipzig in the autumn of 1813, the ensuing Campaign in France culminating in the occupation of Paris in  March 1814 and Napoleon’s abdication under the terms of the Treaty of Fontainbleau (April 1814) and subsequent exile to the Island of Elba.

The meeting of the principal European Powers to finalise these arrangements took place in the numerous gatherings comprising the Congress of Vienna, 1814-15, where the redrawing of Europe’s boundaries was finally agreed and formalised.

In the caricature, a seated Napoleon (No.6), closely attended by the Duke of Wellington (in military uniform) (No.7), “regurgitates” all of the territories of his erstwhile Empire. Not only the regions of France, but the Netherlands and numerous regions of Poland, Italy, Germany and Spain, as depicted in the array of maps which gush forth from his downcast orifice and fill the right of the image and the prominent sack of “spoils” in the right foreground.

On the left of the image, the King of Spain (No.1), Ferdinand VII, previously imprisoned in France by Napoleon until December 1813, now reclaims his lost Kingdom, unceremoniously carrying off all of his repossessed lands & territories grasped in his arms. The text in the letterpress key below notes that Elle est en tres mauvais etat (It (i.e Spain) is in a terrible state).  In the background, The Russian Tsar (No.5) , Alexander I, hands over the Imperial Crown of France to the elected Bourbon claimant, Louis XVI’s brother, now proclaimed King Louis XVIII (No.4).  In the right foreground, the red-jacket figure is Joachim Murat (Joachim Bonaparte), King of Naples, (No.8),  Napoleon’s former aide de camp and brother-in-law, having married Caroline Bonaparte in in January 1800. He holds on to a rolled up map labelled Sicily, though that marked Naples has just slipped from his hands. After Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig, Murat had negotiated a secret deal with the Allied powers to save his own Neapolitan throne and join the Coalition, only to then backtrack on this agreement and switch sides in early 1815 in an attempt to curry Napoleon’s favour during the latter’s return to France during the Hundred Days. Murat would eventually be defeated in battle at Tolentino by Austrian forces in Italy in May 1815. After fleeing first to southern France and then Corsica, he was eventually captured by the Allied Powers, sentenced to death and shot by firing squad in October 1815.  To Murat’s left, the kneeling figure (No.3) is that of the Austrian Emperor, Francis I, who holds aloft the territory of the Low Countries (Pays Bas) which he has retrieved from the large sack, whilst already sitting in his back pocket, are rolled up maps marked Venice and Piedmont. The letterpress below notes against No.3: Il me faut encore ceci (I must also have this one (i.e The Low Countries). Adjacent to the latter, the King of Prussia, Frederick William III (No.2) stoops to pick up the town of Erfurt, whilst in his coat pocket sit rolled up maps of Switzerland and Rosbac(h). The text below notes: Ou l’on trouve ton bien on le prend (Wherever one finds a gift, one takes it). In the right background, a French delegation, including it is believed, Napoleon’s former Justice minister, de Cambacérès, with two comic acolytes, one a bourgeois jam maker, exit the scene by the Porte de Derrière (back door), probably a less than subtle reference by the artist to de Cambacérès’ openly acknowledged homosexuality.

Though it features in several French institutional collections, including the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Louvre, the Musée Carnavalet and the Musée de l’Armée, examples of this amusing map-themed caricature are rarely seen offered on the open market.  A Google search indicates no other examples currently listed for sale online. In all, a rather rare item.

Refs:

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Louvre Collections

Musee Carnavalet