Civil War, 1871, printed before February 1874
crayon lithograph with scraping on mottled violet chine collé
Printed by Imprimerie Lemercier
48.8 x 64 cm; image: 39.8 x 50.6 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 3966)
Signed and dated 1871, though not published until 1874, this print shows a striking confluence of fact and fiction - of "reportage" and the recycling of a potent visual motif from Manet's past work, "The Dead Toreador" of 1867. The artist is said to have actually witnessed this scene, the aftermath of a brutal street battle during the "Semaine sanglante" in May 1871, when the Commune, the revolutionary government that ruled Paris, was overthrown by the troops of the French Assembly in session at Versailles. The dead soldier, a member of the National Guard who fought for the Commune, lies like a fallen martyr before a stone barricade. To the right, the striped pantlegs belong to a fellow Communard civilian who also died in the fighting. This journalistic portrayal of events is, however, carefully rendered to maximize the emotional resonanace of the scene.