Tableau des papiers monnoies

François Bonneville (active 1787-1810), Tableau des papiers monnoies qui ont eut cours depuis l’époque de la Révolution Française, Published Paris: François Bonneville, 1797. Hand-colored engraving. Graphic Arts GA 2009.01180

On February 19, 1796, a bonfire of money was built and then burned on Paris’s Place des Piques. The bills were assignat, the state bond used as the national currency since 1789. According to Richard Taws, the ritual incineration of the assignats “signaled a rupture … intended to register a self-conscious break with the past.” In the months following, a number of trompe l’oeil engravings of crumbled, old assignats began to circulate throughout Paris. The example shown here, both engraved and published by François Bonneville, shows a group of scattered bills, perhaps tossed in a gesture of despair at their worthlessness during that period of hyperinflation.

For more, see Richard Taws, “Trompe-l’Oeil and Trauma: Money and Memory after the Terror,” Oxford Art Journal 30, no. 3 (2007)