Alsace. She is waiting

Alsace. She is waiting

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Title: Alsace. She is waiting.

Author : HENNER Jean-Jacques (1829 - 1905)

Creation date : 1871

Date shown: 1871

Dimensions: Height 60 - Width 30

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas.

Storage place: Jean-Jacques Henner Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux website

Picture reference: 07-502400 / JJHP 1972-15

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Publication date: July 2007

Historical context

The loss of Alsace-Lorraine

The war of 1870 ended on May 10, 1871, with the signing of the Treaty of Frankfurt. Alsace-Lorraine, translation from German Elsass-Lothringen, is directly under the sovereignty of Kaiser Wilhelm Ier. Exacerbated between 1871 and 1872, it quickly faded to reappear especially on the eve and during the First World War.

The painting was commissioned, at the initiative of Mme Kestner, by the ladies of Thann from Jean-Jacques Henner, a painter born in Bernwiller, in the south of Alsace. It was offered to Léon Gambetta (1838-1882), who had it engraved by Léopold Flameng to ensure wide distribution.

A supporter of all-out war, Gambetta had opposed the signing of an armistice while he was Minister of the Interior and of War. According to Castagnary, in The century of July 31, 1871, Gambetta pointed to the painting saying "This is my fiancée!" ".

Image Analysis

It’s not an Alsatian, it’s Alsace

Alsace. She is waiting is not a portrait, like that of his niece Eugenie exhibited by Henner at the Salon of 1870 under the title Alsatian (Paris, Musée national Jean-Jacques Henner), but a personification of Alsace. "She's not an Alsatian, she's Alsace," writes Castagnary in The century. However, unlike the sculptor Paul Cabet in One thousand eight hundred and seventy-one; the terrible year (Salon of 1872, Paris, Musée d´Orsay), Henner does not represent a draped figure overwhelmed by sorrow. Her allegory belongs to the real world: a young Alsatian in mourning, simple and dignified. At this time the painter, Prix de Rome in 1858, adopted a naturalistic style as evidenced by his Reclining woman said The Woman with the Black Sofa (Mulhouse, Musée des Beaux-Arts), exhibited at the Salon of 1869.

The painting is striking in its simplicity and the absence of any anecdotal element: neither letter announcing sad news nor window overlooking the blue line of the Vosges. It is the young woman's headdress that gives the work its patriotic meaning: a black Alsatian knot with a tricolor cockade, the only real touch of color in the painting.


An emblematic painting

Louis Loviot wrote in 1912: "The whole of France recognized in this figure the personification of lost Alsace [...] Reproduced in a thousand forms, theAlsatian [in fact Alsace] was for Henner what it was The passer for François Coppée, it gave him popularity ”(in J. J. Henner and his work, Paris, 1912, p. 16).

As early as 1871, this painting gave rise to a large number of articles by authors who, carried by a patriotic sentiment, generally interpreted it with a lyricism contrasting with its restraint.

Evoking less the young girl who posed for Henner than the symbol that she embodies, Castagnary writes in The century : "She is sixteen, the age of the generation that must see the inevitable revenge come true. "According to The French Republic of January 31, 1872: "Sad as she may be, an unexpected feeling of feminine coquetry made her prick a tricolor cockade in the middle of the large ribbons which flap her forehead like the wings of black butterflies. »For Louis Ratisbonne in The Journal of Debates from 1er January 1873: “In her hair we notice the tricolor cockade, blue, white and red, like a Do not forget me ! on which a drop of blood would have fallen. "Forget-me-not owes its meaning in the language of flowers (" don't forget me! ") To a German legend.

In the context of the exacerbation of patriotism that followed the defeat, Henner's painting became emblematic of the suffering of Alsace, a pain that was also that of a painter very attached to his native land.

  • allegory
  • Alsace Lorraine
  • Gambetta (Leon)
  • War of 1870
  • nationalism


Facing Impressionism, Jean-Jacques Henner (1829-1905), the last of the romantics, catalog of the exhibition at the Musée de la Vie Romantique, June 26, 2007 - January 13, 2008, Paris, Éditions Paris Musées, 2007.Jules -Antoine CASTAGNARY, “La petite Alsace”, in Le Siècle, July 31, 1871.François ROTH, La Guerre de 1870, Paris, Fayard, 1990.Hommage à Léon Gambetta, exhibition catalog, Paris, Musée du Luxembourg, 1982.

To cite this article

Claire BESSÈDE, “Alsace. She is waiting "

Video: Eric Clapton Cover Shes waiting