Volcanoes and historical politics

by Iain Willis
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

As well as influencing art and faith, volcanoes are often portrayed as the very manifestation of the human condition. Expressions of anger are readily described as “volcanic.” They have become a metaphor for anything of suitable magnitude or wrath. One such painting sees a volcano become the embodiment of the French Revolution.

Auguste Desperret was a political cartoonist for a satirical republican magazine, La Caricature. This subversive French newspaper flourished for a short period through the Revolution of 1830. During this time, Desperret produced the cartoon entitled “Troisième éruption du volcan de 1789, qui doit avoir lieu avant la fin du monde, qui fera trembler tous les trônes, et renversera une foule de monarchies,” translated as “Third eruption of the volcano of 1789, to take place before the end of the world, which will shake all thrones, and overturn a horde of monarchies.” The word “Liberté” (freedom) can be seen erupting from the volcanic vent as farmers and locals run for their lives. The picture served as a satirical warning to the French monarchy of the consequences if they did not support the people’s revolution.

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