The Crowning of Voltaire

Charles Étienne Gaucher (French, 1741–1804), After Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune (French, 1741–1814)

Catalogue Raisonné

Bocher 261, iii of vii


Sheet: 27.8 × 34.1 cm (10 15/16 × 13 7/16 in.) Platemark: 26.3 × 29.6 cm (10 3/8 × 11 5/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Etching and engraving

Not On View



The poet, philosopher, and playwright François-Marie Arouet, known universally as Voltaire, was one of the most influential figures of the 18th century. He was a linchpin of the French Enlightenment, so it often comes as a surprise to learn that he spent much of his career in Switzerland, in exile from France. This print, Gaucher’s most important, captures a key moment from Voltaire’s triumphant return to Paris in the very last months of his life. Voltaire came back to the city in February 1778 to see the premiere of his last play, Irène. He fell ill during the voyage from Geneva and missed the premiere at the Comédie française on March 16, but recovered enough to attend a performance later in the month. Moreau le Jeune and Gaucher capture the moment when the cast ceremonially crown a bust of the playwright with a laurel wreath. The real Voltaire looks on from the loge at upper left, as the audience applauds. The philosopher stayed in Paris, but died a few months later.


On reverse: stamp of Louis Deglatigny (b. 1854– d. 1936; Lugt 1768a)


Louis Deglatigny (b. 1854– d. 1936; Lugt 1768a), Rouen, France. September 29, 2005, anonymous sale, Piasa, Paris (Estampes des Ecoles Françaises et Etrangères des XVIe, XVIIe et XVIIIe Siècles), lot 123 to Joel Bergquist (dealer), Palo Alto, CA; 2017, sold by Bergquist to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 18, 2017)

Credit Line

Stephen Bullard Memorial Fund