Essay

“Must the Arts Suffer from the Progress of Reason?” Four Slave Statues, the 1790 Place des Victoires Debate, and the Urban Monument in Early Revolutionary France

Desmond Kraege

Published online:

01 Apr 2017

Abstract

Abstract

In June 1790, the Assemblée nationale decided that the statues of slaves surrounding the monument to Louis XIV on the Place des Victoires were offensive to the inhabitants of some French provinces, and should be removed. This triggered a wide-ranging debate in the Parisian press, with calls for the conservation of the monument or for the use of the statues in a new setting. The discussion dealt with the monument’s iconography, but also with its aesthetic and historical significance, and reflected wider debates on slavery and on the (un)popularity of the monarchy. The article analyses these arguments, points out the importance of public monuments in Parisians’ relation to their city, and shows how the removal of these statues was part of a climate of construction, rather than destruction.

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