A caricature of Adolphe Thiers in 1871

A caricature of Adolphe Thiers in 1871

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Title: Flowers, fruits and vegetables of the day - The pear - M. Thiers.

Author : THE LITTLE Alfred (1841 - 1909)

Creation date : 1871

Date shown: 1871

Dimensions: Height 28.2 - Width 22.5

Technique and other indications: Lithography.

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Bellot

Picture reference: 02CE6899 / 996.26.10

Flowers, fruits and vegetables of the day - The pear - M. Thiers.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Bellot

Publication date: May 2006

Historical context

The National Defense government, set up after the fall of the Second Empire, wants to organize the election of a National Constituent Assembly as quickly as possible in order to establish its legitimacy. However, these 675 newly elected officials are for the most part monarchists (220 Orleanists and 180 legitimists; only 250 deputies are republicans). Aged 74, Thiers was one of the main servants of the July Monarchy before being the leader of the liberal opposition under the Second Empire by claiming "necessary freedoms". He thus appears to be a man of compromise, capable of winning the confidence of a majority of deputies, across political lines.

Image Analysis

The newspaper The Eclipse publishes on February 14, 1871 the caricature of Adolphe Thiers presented alongside some great figures among the elected monarchists, the majority in the National Assembly. Assimilated to the Orleans family, Adolphe Thiers wears a large pear representing Louis-Philippe while the sovereign's sons are placed on a shelf, a direct allusion to a possible succession to the throne.
Thiers having contributed to the establishment of the July Monarchy, Alfred Le Petit recalls the old affinities of the politician by reusing the iconography of the famous caricature of Louis-Philippe published in The Charivari of January 17, 1834. The designer here declines this successful image, using its great popularity.

He takes up the metamorphosis of Louis-Philippe's pear-shaped face by Charles Philipon to characterize Adolphe Thiers, as Faustin also did in Thiers. The queen of cooked pears! as well as the cartoonist Fréville. The pear, a metaphor for a bourgeois monarchy, left an impression beyond the anecdote. Champfleury also said of Philipon, founder of the newspaper The Charivari, which he "embodied in himself, I was going to say created, the political caricature, one of the strongest forces in argument."
Having himself collaborated in Charivari and at Fun Journal (whose director was Philipon's son), Le Petit manifests in this cartoon his adherence to the ideas and style of his predecessor. This lineage in the history of political caricature testifies on the one hand to the impact of the press of the time on the population and, on the other hand, on its actors themselves.

These two newspapers were part of the satirical press under the Second Empire. The Eclipse and The moon mark the following years. But the war of 1870 against Prussia weakened the press: The Eclipse holds in a sheet while The Charivari reduced its size. Some cartoonists such as Le Petit create resistance newspapers such as Load. The fight will continue after the defeat of Sedan and during the Commune. Loose sheets, printed clandestinely, will sweep over Paris until the bloody week that Le Petit and Moloch will fix.


The written press of this time played a significant role in the events which marked the advent of the IIIe Republic. The more liberal laws of 1866 had encouraged a new political boom. The end of the Empire saw a resurgence of opposition and a restructuring of the Republican Party which brought about a new freedom of expression of the press stifled under the Second Empire by censorship. At his side, the caricature is a "political weapon" which produces its effect at first sight. In February 1871, the Parisians, ulcerated by the defeat, still suffered very severely from the consequences of the Prussian siege. Isolated from a majority of French people who have spoken out in favor of peace, the Parisians, very largely Republicans, want the fighting to continue. At the same time, as a reaction against the Empire, the capital practiced almost total freedom of the press and of assembly. Hence this very strong rejection which manifests itself without restraint towards a man who embodies the prudence and the spirit of compromise of this July monarchy of which he was one of the main servants.

  • Thiers (Adolphe)
  • caricature
  • Orleans (of)
  • Louis Philippe
  • July Monarchy
  • hurry
  • Third Republic
  • Champfleury


Annie DUPRATHistory of France through caricatureParis, Larousse, 1999.Pierre GUIRALAdolphe Thiers or Of necessity in politicsParis, Fayard, 1986 Jean-Marie MAYEURThe Beginnings of the Third Republic 1871-1898Paris, Seuil coll. "Points Histoire", 1973.Marcus OSTERWALDERIllustrators Dictionary volume II “1800-1914” Neuchâtel, Ides et Calendes, 2000.Bertrand TILLIERLa Républicature, political caricature in France 1870-1914Paris, Editions du CNRS, 1997.

To cite this article

Nathalie JANES, "A caricature of Adolphe Thiers in 1871"

Video: Adolphe Thiers