The Mysterious Urn: what does it mean?

What is the urn's mystery:  Cautious hope of a Bourbon resurrection, or melodrama over the thwarted tomb?

What is the urn’s mystery: Cautious hope of a Bourbon resurrection and melodrama over the thwarted tomb? Or an attempt at reconciliation by republicans tormented by past brutality and seeking expiation in the realm of the imagination?

(Hint:  Look in the tree’s branches, and at the sides of the urn, to see the hidden profiles of Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Mme Elisabeth, and the two royal children.)

Some guidance to this imagery may be found in Richard Taws, “Trompe l’oeil and Trauma: Money and Memory after the Terror,” Oxford Art Journal 30, 3 (2007): 355-76.

4 thoughts on “The Mysterious Urn: what does it mean?

  1. Do you know the source for this interesting image? The artist or engraver was, I believe, Pierre Crussaire in 1794, but I’ve been able to locate very little discussion of it on the ‘net apart from some references in art and perception textbooks.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. I have been working on L’Urne mysterieuse (and its cousin, Le Saule pleureur) for awhile, with the help of some art historian friends, but the exact meaning, provenance, and market history of these images remain unclear. Some good background is in Claude Langlois’s wonderful book, Les Septs morts du roi.

      1. I work on brain mechanisms underlying
        perceptual rivalry (e.g., Rubin’s vase-face
        illusion, preceded by L’Urne mysterieuse) and
        have a particular interest in the history of these
        phenomena. I would therefore greatly
        appreciate knowing when and where your work
        on L’Urne mysterieuse and Le Saule pleureur
        will be published.

  2. Thanks for your note. I would like to know more about how you interpret this kind of imagery, as would other readers of “A Revolution in Fiction,” so please feel free to submit a short article for us to enjoy here.
    My research will be published in a book currently underway entitled _The Frankenstein of 1790 and Other Missing Links from Revolutionary France_. I plan to finish it up later this year, so stay tuned for more on that…

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