Execution of Emperor Maximilian. Queretaro, June 19, 1867

Execution of Emperor Maximilian. Queretaro, June 19, 1867

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Title: Execution of Emperor Maximilian. Queretaro, June 19, 1867.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown: June 19, 1867

Dimensions: Height 26.7 - Width 38.7

Technique and other indications: Edited in Metz by Gangel and Didion Wood of thread (colored) on paper

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palaissite web

Picture reference: 01.2.28 / Inv: 50.21.685 C

Execution of Emperor Maximilian. Queretaro, June 19, 1867.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The execution of Emperor Maximilian constitutes the last episode of the Mexican War. Archduke of Austria and brother of François-Joseph, he had been placed on the throne by Napoleon III who wanted to maintain an economic and political stranglehold on the country to compete for power with the United States on the American continent. But Maximilien was no match for mastering events. The press then seizes on the event and makes Maximilian a victim. Very quickly, he will be one of the emblematic figures of the despotism of the Second Empire, with the double title of hero and martyr.

Image Analysis

Essentially event-driven, this print marks a desire to evacuate all pathos to make room for the facts related. In a descriptive frame that illustrates the event in its original context, the city of Queretaro, the emperor is represented before an assembly that silently awaits the coup de grace. The saber suspended at the moment of the aim, the void left between the soldiers and the emperor, the calm and determined posture of Maximilian, are all elements which make one measure the time and space before death. Evacuated from the image, the emotion is expressed in the text where the event finds its true dramatic dimension.

At the same time and undoubtedly influenced by this dissemination of news through the image, Edouard Manet, a painter who broke away from the artistic authorities, was also interested in this event which made him rise up, like a large part of the minds. enlightened of the time, against the policy of Napoleon III. He then painted three paintings on this theme as well as a lithograph in which he represented the execution of Maximilian in a mode close to popular imagery, leading a real investigation into the exact course of the events. It confers on Maximilian and the two other victims a dignity in the face of death which is part of the patriotism representative of its commitments. The works produced by Manet and this engraving are reminiscent, by the position of the soldiers represented in close ranks, of another execution image, older and known to artists of the time, Tres de Mayo, by Francisco Goya, canvas painted in 1815.

Inscribed text [1]


This print, undoubtedly contemporary with the event, diffuses a stereotypical image of the emperor, worthy in the face of death. It is backed up by an edifying text, which highlights the moral virtues of the victim and rejects the insurgents to the rank of executioners. This idealization of the political figure treated as a “national” hero perpetuates an iconographic tradition that the Napoleonic legend had only amplified through the propagandist painting of David and the engravings produced in Epinal. In 1867, Metz was a production center which had rivaled the Pellerin factory for fifty years, particularly in terms of history. The engravings of the time convey a nationalist ideology that the texts illustrate and reinforce.
Pantheist-inspired, this type of print was produced not to accurately relate a historical reality, but to instill moral values ​​in the population through a codified interpretation that continued throughout the 19th century.

  • colonial conquest
  • execution
  • Mexico
  • Second Empire
  • Goya (Francisco de)
  • patriotism


Jean AVENEL The Mexican Campaign, 1862-1867.The end of European hegemony in North America Paris, Economica, 1996, François CACHIN Manet Paris, Chêne, 1990.Manet. 1832-1883 Exhibition catalog, national galleries of the Grand Palais, Paris, April 22-August 1, 1983, Paris, RMN, 1983.Triumph and death of the hero. History painting in Europe from Rubens to Manet Exhibition catalog, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, May 19-July 17, 1988, Electa / Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, 1988 Eric DARRAGON Manet Paris, Citadelles, 1991. Pierre Louis DUCHARTRE and René SAULNIER Popular imagery Paris, Bookstore of France, 1925. Jean-François LECAILLON Napoleon III and Mexico. The illusions of a grand design Paris, L'Harmattan, 1994.


1. "On June 19, 1867, at seven o'clock in the morning, the Emperor Maximilian, whose conduct had never ceased to be an example of chivalrous courage during the siege of Queretaro, left the convent in which he was a prisoner to get to the place of his execution where, after / having addressed a few words to the assistants, he fell pierced with bullets; shortly before / he had been cowardly betrayed by Lopez, one of his Lieutenants who, for a sum of money , / had odiously delivered him to Juarez during his sleep. This unhappy Prince, who had been / recognized four years ago as the legitimate Sovereign of Mexico by all the powers of / Europe, had made it a point of honor to make a supreme effort to save those who were / attached to his person and devoted to his cause.His death, ordered by Juarez, imprints on his / executioners a stigma that will not be erased, and the disapproval of all civilized nations / will be the first punishment of a government which has at its head a p areil chief. "

To cite this article

Nathalie JANES, “Execution of Emperor Maximilian. Queretaro, June 19, 1867 »

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