Figurehead of the 'Le San Culote'
It was usual for ships to bear figureheads with political or ideological meanings. This is one of two drawings of the French Revolutionary ship 'Sans-Culotte', the other of which shows the stern. Here the starboard profile view of the prow focuses on the figurehead, the icon of the Revolutionary ideal, the Jacobin 'sans-culotte'. He is, however, a fusion of various Revolutionary iconographies. The Republic took as its political model the 'polis' of the classical Greek republic, and openly adopted severely rational, neo-classical cultural ideals in emulation of the classical past. The mythological hero Hercules was also adopted, along with the female icon Marianne, as the incarnation of French Revolutionary principles. Here, therefore, the 'sans-culotte's' dress is transformed into a classicized toga, and, while clutching the 'fasces' (the bound rods and axe that represented Roman justice) with his left hand, he holds in his right a Herculean club. On the other hand, his contemporary identity is also represented, somewhat incongruously, by his wearing typical French 18th century footwear and the obligatory 'bonnet rouge'.
Original size: 267 mm x 327 mm
- Image reference: PY0129
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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