Prison des Chantiers, le 15 août 1871, Versailles

Ernest Eugène Appert (French, 1831–1891)

Albumen silver print from glass negative
Sheet: 36 x 46 cm (14 3/16 x 18 1/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Joyce F. Menschel Photography Library Fund, 2012
Accession Number:
2012.352 (11)
  • Description

    Following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the fall of Napoleon III, thousands of Parisians revolted against the new royalist-leaning government and declared Paris an independent commune. Weeks of fighting ensued, during which Versailles troops attacked the city while the Communards threw up barricades, shot hostages, and burned government buildings. Soon afterward, Appert, a Parisian portrait photographer, issued “Crimes of the Commune,” a tendentious series of nine photographs of the insurrection that emphasized the criminal brutality of the rebels. Although based on real events, the photographs were utterly fabricated. Appert hired actors to restage each scene in his studio then cut and pasted the figures onto the appropriate backgrounds; atop the actors’ bodies he pasted headshots of the Commune’s key participants. The photographs were later banned by the French government for “disturbing the public peace” by sustaining anti-Communard sentiments—a testament to their effectiveness as political propaganda.

  • Provenance

    [...]; (French auction house, 1971); [...]; [Librairie Pierre-Yves Erbland, Paris, October 24, 2001]; Christophe Goeury, France