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Nearly half of the women represented in La Caricature are allegorical figures. These women represent concepts and institutions such as the French Republic, the press, the national budget, and rival newspapers. In a book about women in Daumier’s (a close colleague of Philipon and contributor to La Caricature), Elizabeth Childs explains that caricaturists often used female figures to represent ideas like liberty or the press because the “audience could not easily confuse them with the real players in world politics, who were primarily men” (127). Women’s exclusion from politics also means that their appearance in political settings amplifies the satirical nature of caricatures. They clearly stand out from crowds of male politicians.
Many of these allegories are identified by signature accessories or by labels on their clothing. Aside from these identifiers, depictions of female allegories vary significantly from caricature to caricature. Artists could modify their appearances to emphasize different character traits in support of their message. Women who represent liberty, the presse, or France exemplify Philipon and his colleagues' vision of a good French woman. On the other hand, rival publications and allegories for the government are represented as women who epitomize low morals or the flaws of the wealthy bourgeoisie.
Twenty-one out of the 55 images (~38%) that I examined with allegorical women depict them as victims of violence, often at the hands of Louis-Philippe and other male politicians. These shocking images aim to inspire sympathy for these women and anger towards the king. They also constitute a direct attack on the masculinity and honor of Louis-Philippe and his July Monarchy. J.B. Margadant explains in an essay on gender in the July Monarchy that, following a "bougeoise definition of masculinity, to dishonor a male opponent in a gendered setting meant presenting him either as an abuser of women or as too much like them" (1471). Thus, the use of female allegories transforms caricature into a "gendered field of honor" on which Louis-Philippe can be critiqued and discredited (Margadant 1472).
Marianne and La Presse are two allegories who appear frequently in La Caricature. The following pages explore their representation and images of violence against them.
- 1 2020-03-25T15:11:01-07:00 Selected images 7 Flip through this gallery to see relevant images that I have selected from the volumes I examined. Click on an image to enlarge it and see more detailed information. gallery 2020-04-24T15:40:06-07:00
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.