Caricatures of Violence

La Presse

Censorship was an ever-present threat for those who published criticisms of the July Monarchy. Philipon was thrown in jail for his caricatures of the king and La Caricature was eventually shut down due to censorship. Many images in the journal comment on the role of the press using the female allegory La Presse. Unlike Marianne, La Presse is rarely the victim of explicit violence in caricature. Instead, she is often a witness to violence or someone who spreads the word about injustice.

The image below is one of few examples of violence against La Presse. She is shown with one arm in a sling and the other in chains. She pleads with Liberty and gestures towards Louis-Philippe and the chaos that surrounds him. La Presse is not powerless like many other women in La Caricature but she is in danger. This reflects the looming threat of censorship imposed by the king in response to harsh criticism by Philipon and his colleagues.

Although La Caricature often published images that implied acts of violence against the king, La Presse never resorts to violence.  In the image below, she holds a torch to a group of male politicians, literally shedding a light on their corruption. The politicians attempt to blow out her torch – another reference to censorship.

In the image below, La Presse continues to serve as a witness to the king’s violence. She alerts the soldiers of the Republique as he assassinates Liberty.  

In each of these images, La Presse exercises agency but it is always nonviolent or indirect. She holds up a torch or blares a trumpet, she does not directly defend herself or other allegorical women from violence at the hands of the king. In fact, when the press does fight back, it is represented by a printing press, not La Presse.

La Presse’s lack of violent agency may be due to the fact Philipon and other artists identify with her more directly than any other female allegory in the journal. When La Caricature is threatened, so is La Presse. Therefore it is important that she represent the pinnacle of moral, proper femininity. If she engaged in violence, she would more closely resemble the women described as affreux than the delicate, domestic women praised throughout La Caricature. Caricaturists walk a line between representing La Presse as a good woman being threatened by Louis-Philippe and as an actor with power to challenge the king. Explicit images of her as a victim of violence may make her - and by extension Philipon and his colleagues – appear weak but images of her violently challenging the king would undermine her image as a proper woman.

This page has paths:

This page references: