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Waxing Revolutionary: Reflections on a Raid on a Waxworks at the Outbreak of the French Revolution

By D. McCallam


[First paragraph] Parisians from all walks of life were already accustomed to watching heads roll before the Revolution of 1789. This is not a reference to public executions of the time (beheadings were reserved for the nobility and were rare events) but to another cultural spectacle of late eighteenth-century Paris, one which was sufficiently well-known to become the object of a satirical print in 1787. Entitled ‘Avis au public: Têtes à changer’, the print by P. D. Viviez lampoons the unceremonious updating of fashionable or celebrated waxwork figures displayed in the popular entertainments district of the Boulevard du Temple [See Figure 1]. It shows wax heads being handed down from shelves; heads being replaced on models; one head about to be struck off with a chisel; another head lies discarded on the ground, being sniffed at by a little cat. All of this takes place in front of a crowd of curious, chatty onlookers

Year: 2002
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