Artists: Jean-Joseph Weerts (France, 1847-1927)



Figure 1.--Joseph Barra was a boy who volunteered to fight for the Revolution. Weerts in his 1883 painting "The Death of Barra" paints the Republican boy soldier protecting the horses he has been entrusted with while brigands assault him. Thos was one version of Joseph's story.

Jean-Joseph Weerts was born in Roubaix (Nord) (1847). He was a pupil of Isidore Pils and Alexandre Cabanel at the Beaux-Arts, Paris. He made his debut at the Salon de Paris early in his career (1869). Much of his better known works are historical works focusing on the Revolution. Weerts was elected a member of the Société des Artistes Français (1883), but later to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (1892). He was made a Commandeur of the Légion d'honneur. France has a history of art used for military propaganda. David during the Revolution and Napoleonic period is perhaps the greatest example. There was a long period after the Napoleomic Wars in which this genre was eclipsed. This changed with the military disaster France experienced in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) . One of the most important paintings that came out of the new burst of nationalism and military spirit was Weerts "The "Death of Barra" (1883). Joseph Barra (1779-93) was a boy hero of the French Revolution. Joseph's death was turned into a propaganda moment by Robespierre. As Tribune, he memorialized Joseph before the Convention, proclaiming that "only the French have thirteen-year-old heroes". He ordered Joseph's remains transferred to the Panthéon. There was a boy named Joseph Barra who fought for the Republic. It is unknown, however, to what extent Joseph's story is fact or myth.

The Artist

Jean-Joseph Weerts was born in Roubaix (Nord) (1847). He was a pupil of Isidore Pils and Alexandre Cabanel at the Beaux-Arts, Paris. He made his debut at the Salon de Paris early in his career (1869). Much of his better known works are historical works focusing on the Revolution. Weerts was elected a member of the Société des Artistes Français (1883), but later to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (1892). He was made a Commandeur of the Légion d'honneur. France has a history of art used for military propaganda. David during the Revolution and Napoleonic period is perhaps the greatest example. There was a long period after the Napoleomic Wars in which this genre was eclipsed. This changed with the military disaster France experienced in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) . One of the most important paintings that came out of the new burst of nationalism and military spirit was Weerts "The "Death of Barra" (1883). Weerts must have been moved by Joseph's story. He painted Joseph again, this time a simple portrait in his uniform.

Joseph Barra (1779-93)

Joseph Barra (1779-93) was a boy hero of the French Revolution. Joseph's death was turned into a propaganda moment by Robespierre. As Tribune, he memorialized Joseph before the Convention, proclaiming that "only the French have thirteen-year-old heroes". He ordered Joseph's remains transferred to the Panthéon. There was a boy named Joseph Barra who fought for the Republic. There were different versions of Joseph's story. Joseph because of his age would have voluntarily enlisted in the Revolutionary army that fought the royalist insurrection in the Vendée. He was captured by the royalists and ordered to yell "Vive le Roi" ("Long live the King"). He refused to save his own life and cried, Vive la République" ("Long live the Republic"). The boy's death was seized as a propaganda opportunity by Robespierre, who praised him at the Convention's tribune saying that "only the French have thirteen-year-old heroes" and had his remains transferred to the Panthéon. David painted Joseph not very heroically, naked before a wall. The Weerts painting is a different story and much more heroic. It is unknown, however, to what extent Joseph's story is fact or myth. Pfficials of the Third Republic were impressed with the Weerts version. They had 0.5 million prints reproduced and distributed in schools.






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Created: 3:59 AM 7/21/2008
Last updated: 3:59 AM 7/21/2008