The battle of Valmy

The battle of Valmy

The Battle of Valmy, September 20, 1792.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet / G. Blot

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The Battle of Valmy was won on September 20, 1792 by the French army commanded by Dumouriez and Kellermann over the coalition army commanded by the Duke of Brunswick. There was no real clash, but about 500 dead.

Witnessing the event, Goethe would write: “From here and today date a new epoch in universal history. The first victory of Republican France, Valmy had immense moral repercussions, even if the ardor of the new recruits of the Revolution does not alone explain the victory: the incessant rains and dysentery also played their part.

Image Analysis

The moment represented in the painting is when Kellermann, lieutenant general under the orders of Dumouriez, is overthrown by the fall of his horse. It wears a tricolor cordon, which was then that of the Order of Saint-Louis, now the military decoration. We can see General Pully on his left. Behind him and on foot, we recognize Captain Sénarmont, injured in the thigh. On Kellermann's right are General Valence, the Duke of Chartres, future Louis-Philippe, and the Duke of Montpensier. The stage is located on the plateau of the Valmy mill. Near the miller's house, we see the ambulance. In the distance appears the village of Gisaucourt.

The battalion of national volunteers is the first battalion of Saône-et-Loire. The French army here symbolically faces Châlons and Paris. The batteries of the Allied Army stand before it.

Interpretation

This painting, commissioned from Mauzaisse in 1835 and paid for 8,000 francs, is part of the program of representation of the great feats of arms in the history of France, from the Middle Ages to the contemporary period, wanted by Louis-Philippe for the historical museum of Versailles. Intended for the 1792 auditorium, it takes up the composition performed in 1826 by Horace Vernet for the Duke of Orleans, father of Louis-Philippe, at the Palais-Royal.

It is easy to understand the political interest that the King of the French could personally find in the performance of the Battle of Valmy where he himself, then Duke of Chartres, played an important role. But beyond that, it is the evocation of the one and indivisible Nation rushing towards victory with the cry of "Long live the Nation!" Long live France ! Which is privileged in this brilliant staging of revolutionary heroism.

  • battles
  • Convention
  • Orleans (of)
  • revolutionary wars
  • Louis Philippe
  • patriotism
  • Valmy

Bibliography

Jean-Paul BERTAUD, Atlas of the French Revolution, t. 3, The Army and the War, Paris, EHESS editions, 1989.

Jean-Paul BERTAUD, Citizen-Soldiers and the French Revolution, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1979.

François FURET, Mona OZOUF, Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (article "Army"), Flammarion, 1988, reed. Champs Flammarion, 1992.

COLLECTIVE, The French Revolution and Europe (1789-1799), exhibition catalog, Paris, RMN, 1989.

To cite this article

Robert FOHR and Pascal TORRÈS, "The battle of Valmy"


Video: The french revolutionary wars part 2: The battle of Valmy