Even after his execution in January 1793, portraits of Louis XVI were printed or painted and distributed or sold, as a semi-clandestine device of political propaganda by legitimists during the First Republic and the First Empire, and openly after the restoration of the Monarchy in 1814 and 1815 under his brother Louis XVIII. We have here the picture of a small black and white print with the words “Un Roi, une foi, ordre de famille”, with a personalised textile frame, indicating both a dedicated and humble use in domestic settings. An expiatory chapel dedicated to the Royal martyrs was erected in Paris between 1815 and 1826, and over the course of two centuries has been subjected to numerous proposal of demolition on the left, including an order by the insurrectional Commune of Paris in 1871, which was not carried out.
This later reproduction, on ceramic, of the portrait painted in 1782 by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun of Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchess of Polignac (8 September 1749– 9 December 1793) would not have been a popular item during the French Revolution. She was the favourite of Marie Antoinette, a great beauty, who capitalised on her relation with the Queen to enrich her family and acquire power. She became one of the most unpopular figures before the Revolution itself, inspiring riots during which her effigy was burned and troops opened fire. Polignac escaped at the beginning of the Revolution and avoided the fate of Marie Antoinette and her other favourite, the Princess of Lamballe, but she nevertheless died immediately after them in exile in Vienna. Her son, Jules de Polignac, continued her ultra-royalist politics, becoming the President of the Council of Ministers in 1829-30 under Charles X. His reactionary policies led to the Revolution of 1830 and the definitive end of the Bourbon Monarchy in France.
A more personal level is reflected in this unusual, very simple and non-professional portrait of an officer of the royalist army in exile in Coblenz (German Electorate of Trier), named Juillet. He died aged 20 ½ years on 20 March 1794, seven months before the French Republican army occupied the city, which had become since 1789 the headquarters of the French counter-revolutionary nobility who had migrated to Germany. It is a simple sketch in black ink, drawn on a recycled piece of paper, folded and stained. Most likely the portrait was drawn by a fellow officer during a pause between military duties. Later, after his death, it acquired a new meaning, was framed with a few lines, completed with a text of explanation in brown ink and protected with a simple black frame as a memento for those who had known him.
This example of Physionotrace presents J.B. Selves, a former magistrate and member of the Corps legislatif, who was fructidorisé, that is removed from Parliament with the coup d’État of 4 September 1797 (18 fructidor an 5), aimed at removing the monarchist right wing of the Club de Clichy. During the Directoire (1795-1799), after the fall of Robespierre, Barras and his colleagues leading a moderate Republic, attacked all emerging threats, sometimes repressing the Jacobin left, sometime the resurgent monarchists. The portrait of Selves is indeed in line with the fashion and look of the Ancien Regime. The portrait was produced by Chrétien at the Palais Royal, where so much action was concentrated at the time.