Rouget de Lisle and La Marseillaise


Designed and produced by the Musée de l'Armée as part of “2016, the year of La Marseillaise”, this documentary exhibition, shown in the main courtyard of the Hôtel des Invalides until October, has since become a touring exhibition, also accessible via the museum's website.


In 2016, declared “Year of La Marseillaise” by the French President, as part of commemorations of the 180th anniversary of Rouget de Lisle's death in 1836, the Musée de l'Armée designed and produced a documentary exhibition entitled “Rouget de Lisle and La Marseillaise”. The exhibition is part of the cultural, scientific and educational season around La Marseillaise, organised in partnership with the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research.

Consisting of 22 panels distributed around the galleries of the main courtyard of the Hôtel des Invalides, the exhibition retraced the history of the anthem, from the declaration of war on Austria, in 1792, to the present day. As with all of the museum's documentary exhibitions, it is permanently accessible in the form of a virtual exhibition.

Written by Rouget de Lisle, the Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin (Battle song for the Army of the Rhine), subsequently renamed La Marseillaise, had a changing status. It began life as a fighting song, which fellow composer and friend André Grétry described as “rousing battle music”. On 28 September 1792, on the proposal of war minister Joseph Servan, La Marche des Marseillois became the anthem of the combatant Republic. Then, on 24 November 1793, La Marseillaise was declared the official anthem by the Montagnard Convention. Finally, it was adopted as the French national anthem, in 1879, under the Third Republic.

Each panel is illustrated with a main image - a score, poster, object or photograph. The exhibition is based around two main themes: how La Marseillaise and Rouget de Lisle have been portrayed in different periods, and how those portrayals were “intensively” used during the First World War. It also looks at the figure and military career of Rouget de Lisle, military music and revolutionary songs, arrangements for orchestra, as well as the performances of La Marseillaise given during the Second World War, right up to the one given last year as a tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks. Use your phone to scan the QR codes on some panels, to add an additional audio or audiovisual dimension to your tour.

To produce this exhibition, the Musée de l'Armée drew on its documentary resources and collections. A number of partner institutions also contributed documents from their collections: the Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD), the Service Historique de la Défense (SHD), Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense University's Library of Contemporary International Documentation (BDIC), the Choisy-le-Roi Archive, Documentation and Heritage Service, the Rouget de Lisle Museum in Lons-le-Saunier, and the Strasbourg Museums Documentation and Photo Library.

A partnership with the National Office for Veterans and War Victims (ONAC-VG) has made it possible to turn this into a touring exhibition. Since September 2016, it has been presented in a number of locations across France, and it will continue to cater to demand around the country for a number of years to come. Local authorities, schools and organisations can request the exhibition by contacting the ONAC-VG's departmental offices in Paris, Marseille, Strasbourg or Lons-le-Saunier, or its offices in the regional capitals, by consulting the ONAC-VG website.

Sylvie Picolet, exhibition curator - Department for Historical Research, Educational Actions and Outreach, Musée de l’Armée

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