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Saturday Volcano Art: Auguste Desperret, ‘Troisième éruption du volcan de 1789’ (1833) 5 September 2009

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Auguste Desperret (1804-65) was a French artist who produced political cartoons and caricatures for the republican satirical weekly La Caricature, edited by Charles Philipon, which flourished briefly in France following the relaxation of press censorship brought by the July Revolution of 1830. That revolution brought an end to the authoritarian rule of King Charles X, who was forced into exile and replaced by the ‘July Monarchy’ of Louis-Philippe I (who would in turn be overthrown in the revolution of 1848). The first issue of La Caricature appeared in November 1830, and the last in August 1835; the ‘September Laws’ of the latter year, passed in response to an attempted assassination of the king, reimposed political censorship of the press and ended publication. In those few years, however, La Caricature had drawn on the skills of some very talented artists – most notably perhaps Honoré Daumier – to create some of the most memorable and effective political caricature in the history of the genre.

The lithograph reproduced here was published in issue no. 135 of La Caricature, 6 June 1833. Its full title is ‘troisième éruption du volcan de 1789, qui doit avoir lieu avant la fin du monde, qui fera trembler tous les trônes, et renversera une foule de monarchies’: ‘third eruption of the volcano of 1789, to take place before the end of the world, which will shake all thrones, and overturn a horde of monarchies’. The first eruption of this volcano of liberty was of course in 1789 itself, the outbreak of the French Revolution. The second was the July Revolution of 1830. In this image, Desperret warns, as the July Monarchy increasingly turns against the principles of French republicanism, that the third such eruption is yet to come.

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