Sunday, March 14, 2010

Les Sans-culottes

Isn't this a great picture? Just this week, I received permission to use it in the prototype itinerary of the Time Traveler Tours, Beware Madame La Guillotine.

It is a hand-colored copper engraving by Braun & Schneider, Munich, c. 1880, that comes to me from the Collection KulturBuro Schodel, It pictures les citoyens sans-culottes of the French Revolution.

Who were the "sans-culottes"? This excerpt from Beware Madame La Guillotine explains all:

The term “sans-culottes” first appeared in the French lexicon in 1790 during the French Revolution. Initially, it described the poorer members of the Third Estate* who wore full-length trousers (pantaloons) rather than the knee-length culottes fashionable among the bourgeoisie and nobility. The expression quickly came to refer to the radical revolutionaries, both rich and poor, who styled themselves “citoyens sans-culottes”.

In addition to long trousers, the sans-culottes were also often seen wearing a conical red cap, known as the “Phrygian Cap” or cap of liberty. The same cap was worn in ancient times by both the Greeks and later the Romans. For them, as for the French revolutionaries, the Phrygian Cap symbolized freedom from tyranny.

During the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars, the term sans-culottes referred as well to the ill-clad and ill-equipped volunteers of the Revolutionary Army.

As for news on the likelihood of obtaining photos from the RMN (see Phrases & Expression: Sabotage), I managed to get through to the Paris reps who've bounced my case to their affiliate in New York. I'm hoping very much that this means progress! Cross your fingers for me.

*The Third Estate was that portion of the French population (approximately 96%) that was neither part of the Church nor to the Aristocracy in France of the
Ancien RĂ©gime. For more on the Third Estate and the French Revolution, click here.

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