Citizen Sade

Imaginary Portrait of D.A.F Sade-Man Ray 1936

In 1789 the Marquis De Sade was one of eight prisoners held in the state prison of Bastille. For a number of years he had been detained under lettres de cachet, a system were the King could imprison a subject without trial and without the opportunity of appeal. Lettres de cachet were one of the most hated features of the ancien regime, as it was open to a wide variety of abuses, notably the possible life-long detainment of embarrassing family members by wealthy and noble petitioners.

On the morning of July 2, the Marquis was in a highly excitable state and nervously paced the confines of his cell. His wife had told him about the chaos on the streets of Paris. The Marquis had noticed the stepping up of military preparations within the fortress. At noon his warden came to tell the Marquis that his daily walk around the prison grounds was cancelled for today, by the order of the commandant. Outraged by the loss of this privilege, the Marquis grabbed a long metal funnel, that was usually used to empty his chamber pot into the moat below, but also worked as an impromptu megaphone, and began to harangue the crowds below that the guards were slitting the prisoners throats and called upon the assembled mob to storm the fortress. After being subdued with great difficultly by a number of guards the Marquis was transferred from the Bastille to the mental asylum of Charenton.

Just 12 days later the Bastille was indeed stormed by the revolutionaries and the weapons  and ammunition’s cache were seized. As a symbol of Royal authority its fall was especially significant. The French Revolution had begun in earnest and the world would never be the same again.  One of the first things the new government did was to abolish the lettres de cachet and so on April the 2nd 1790 the Marquis Donatien Aphonse Francois De Sade left Charenton a free man for the first time in over a decade: and with this release was born Citizen Sade, revolutionary and man of letters.

The above imaginary portrait by Man Ray refers to this central event in De Sade’s life. De Sade is the imprisoned man whose entire countenance is made out of prison bricks who dreams of an absolute and terrifying freedom, looking on at the conflagration of the hated citadel of oppression. The text at the bottom of the painting is a quote from the De Sade’s last will and testament.


57 thoughts on “Citizen Sade

    1. Here is his last will and testament in full…it is quite sweet really, though he was absolutely wrong on his prediction. Remember that he was a militant atheist;
      “The ditch once covered over, above it acorns shall be strewn, in order that the spot become green again, and the copse grown back thick over it, the traces of my grave may disappear from the face of the earth as I trust the memory of me shall fade out of the minds of all men save nevertheless for those few who in their goodness have loved me until the last and of whom I carry away a sweet remembrance with me to the grave.”

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Here is a previous post that concerns De Sade.. with a really spooky but brilliant painting
      Au Chateau La Coste-Toyen 1946In the early 1930’s Jindrich Styrsky, the co-founder of the Czech Surrealist group made a pilgrimage to Provence, to …
      At the Chateau La Coste
      annie le brun,libertine,ruins,marquis de sade,toyen,the reality overload,wolf,surrealism,chateau la coste,provence,erotic imagery,jindrich styrsky


      1. A follow-up would be good. He is more than most people are aware of, myself included until recently! I have highlighted passages of his writing in the stories I’ve read that are particularly brilliant. I may have told you, I don’t remember…

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know… it can be unsettling on occasion… it’s great when it flows but I read it back and I think…I don’t necessarily think on a day to day basis like this but I write (not the art posts though, I am quite logical on those) like this. Hmmm it’s strange.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The art is captivating, very 3D. My minor was in European History and so I spent much time on the Revolution, yet somehow missed the story about Sade being there. Fascinating connection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well he was a minor figure in the revolution but a figure nevertheless. The whole Bastille connection he was very proud of. In a way his writings are the ultimate in radical and revolutionary thinking, but who wants to live in that appalling world shown in his more extreme writings?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too, his life was ridiculously action packed and eventful and he seemed to be in a constant state of rage. However he has other facets. I have posted a number of short essays on him and the libertine tradition as well art he has influenced.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s