The Federated Wall

The Federated Wall

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  • The Triumph of Order.

    PICHIO said PICQ Ernest (1826 - 1893)

  • The widow of the shot.

    PICHIO said PICQ Ernest (1826 - 1893)

To close

Title: The Triumph of Order.

Author : PICHIO said PICQ Ernest (1826 - 1893)

Creation date : 1877

Date shown: 1871

Dimensions: Height 32 - Width 46

Technique and other indications: also known as "the Federated Wall" lithograph

Storage place: Saint-Denis Art and History Museum

Contact copyright: © Saint-Denis, art and history museum - Photo I. Andréani

Picture reference: NA 2024

© Saint-Denis, art and history museum - Photo I. Andréani

© Montreuil Living History Museum - Photo O. Fryszowski

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The Federated Wall

At the end of the "Bloody Week", on Saturday May 27, 1871, the Versailles troops managed to invest the Père-Lachaise cemetery where the federates had withdrawn while the districts of the Throne, Charonne and Belleville were under assault. For several hours, the Communards resisted to the point that the fighting would sometimes have ended with hand-to-hand combat and stabbing, between the graves, not far from the graves of Nodier, Balzac and Souvestre.

One hundred and forty-seven captured Communards were shot against the eastern wall of the cemetery. In their memory, a section of this wall was called from the end of the 1870s the “Federated wall”.

Image Analysis


From the beginning of the 1880s, an annual commemoration took place there, at the initiative of former Communards and their relatives, soon relayed by militant left, political and trade union organizations. Today, the Sunday closest to May 28 - which in 1871 marked the end of "Bloody Week" and the crushing of the Commune - is still the date of an annual "climb to the Wall".

The Triumph of Order, also says The Federated Wall, and The widow of the shot were made in 1877 by Ernest Pichio (1826-1893), during the proscription in Switzerland of the artist, exiled in Geneva. Of Communard obedience, Pichio painted in The Triumph of Order - the known lithograph is taken from the missing painting - a lyrical vision of the massive and summary executions of the federates at Père-Lachaise. Under an apocalyptic sky, it shows the Communards leaning against a wall overlooking a deep pit. The faces of the condemned express the same dread as the paralyzed features of the dying and the dead which litter the bottom and the periphery of the pit. Mown down by a battery of cannons shown on the right, the convulsive bodies of men, women, children and old people speak of the terror of repression embodied by the two soldiers from Versailles coldly watching the executions.

In The widow of the shot, Pichio seems to "write" the rest of this story. At the foot of the same wall, a woman in mourning accompanies her two young children and points out to them the inscription carved in the stone: "May 1871 / To the martyrs / without name / dead for freedom. The children come to lay a funeral wreath dedicated to their father, where others already strewn the ground, in a tribute that still has the appearances of hiding.


The political myth

Carried out even before the annual climbs to the Federated Wall were tolerated - although closely watched by the police - these two works by Pichio seem to fix the beginnings of worship in the years preceding the general amnesty of 1880. The “wall” is sublimated by a very romantic dramatization of the heroes, whose appalling, exemplary and sacrificial death, is particularly conducive to the cult of memory and the most effective political symbols.

Pichio's strength lies in knowing how to play, in these two contemporary images, with different temporal regimes - the present of the massacres of the "Bloody Week" and the present of their commemoration -, likely to provoke two complementary political and militant attitudes: 'indignation before The Triumph of Order and contemplation in the face of The widow of the shot.

  • graveyard
  • communards
  • Municipality of Paris
  • execution
  • federated
  • monuments
  • Paris
  • Father Lachaise
  • Versailles repression


Alain DALOTEL, "A red pilgrimage: the ascent to the Federated Wall (1878-1914)", Gavroche, no 9, April-May 1983, p. 14-20.

Bernard NOËL, Municipality dictionary, 2 vol., [1971], Paris, Flammarion, coll. "Champs", 1978.

Madeleine REBÉRIOUX, "The Federated Wall", in Pierre NORA (dir.), Memorial place, [1984], t. 1, Paris, Gallimard, coll. “Quarto”, 1997, p. 535-558.

Danielle TARTAKOWSKY, We will go and sing on your graves. Père-Lachaise, 19th-20th centuries, Paris, Aubier, 1999.

To cite this article

Bertrand TILLIER, "The Federated Wall"

Video: L124205