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Farting Angels and Ass-Slapping Aristocrats: A Web Archive Reveals the Weird Side of the French Revolution

Scroll through 14,000 newly released images of angel farts, guillotine humor, and historic Sad Keanus.

by Becky Ferreira
Feb 3 2014, 3:19pm

This angel's trumpet-fart is one of 14,000 newly released documents from French Revolution Digital Archive.

Shackles broke, kings fell, and heads rolled. The French Revolution was one of the most dramatic social explosions in history, and its aftershocks still ripple through Western culture 200 years later. And now, thanks to the French Revolution Digital Archive, any Francophiles with an Internet connection has access to over 14,000 newly released images from the bloodbath. Quel bonheur!

The FRDA, a partnership between Stanford University and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), was launched on January 28. Their website is comprehensive and incredibly well-designed, so history buffs beware: you could sink hours into this page without realizing it. The online trove consists of two main categories, the Archive parlementaires and the Images de la Revolution française.

According to the site, the Archive parlementaires is “a chronologically-ordered edited collection of sources on the French Revolution [...] conceived in the mid 19th century as a project to produce a definitive record of parliamentary deliberations and also includes letters, reports, speeches, and other first-hand accounts from a great variety of published and archival sources.” The image vault, on the other hand, is packed with political cartoons, coins, fashion guides, and other fantastic finds.

There's obviously a lot of fascinating material to sift through, and many of the images will be familiar: guillotines aplenty, Bastille break-ins, and giant caucuses convened to hammer out the new order. But if you're a French history nerd, you'll have seen that stuff before. So we've singled out some of the apparently forgotten, truly bizarre ephemera, such as the below scene of a wig flying offor as we prefer to think of it, flying towards—a nobleman. It's a fascinating look at weird side of the French Revolution that history seemed intent on forgetting.

Nice red cape, too.

A good old-fashioned Enlightenment ass slap.

The crown says, "I've lost a head." The guillotine says, "I've found one." Creepy.

The "aristocratic hydra" (and apparent Terry Gilliam monster) versus the commoners.

Even the French Revolution had Sad Keanus.

Duck tales. 

And last but not least, the full version of the 1792 satirical image of an angel playing fart-trumpet over a Jacobin funeral procession.