Voltaire, Crowned by the Comédiens Français

Voltaire.This engraving commemorates the sixth performance by the Comédie Française of Voltaire's "Irène" on March 30, 1778, after which the troupe crowned a bust of the author on stage. This apotheosis of Voltaire at the royal theater culminated the writer's triumphal return to Paris just before his death. Such engravings as this one and the more frequently reproduced "Homage to Voltaire" by Moreau le jeune helped establish in the collective imagination that by the late 1770s, the Enlightenment had triumphed. Yet no other playwright of the century could imagine enjoying such acclaim from both the troupe and the audience, and most playwrights resented Voltaire for his success. This engraving is reproduced from the BN Éstampes, Collection Hennin 9644.

Detail (800 x 1076)