Vienna Congress

Vienna Congress

  • The Congress of Vienna.

    ISABEY Jean-Baptiste (1767 - 1855)

  • The Congress of Vienna.

    GODEFROY Jean (1771 - 1839)

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Title: The Congress of Vienna.

Author : ISABEY Jean-Baptiste (1767 - 1855)

Creation date : 1815

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 46 - Width 66

Technique and other indications: Pen drawing; sepia ink.

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - C. Jean website

Picture reference: 88-003881 / RF3858

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - C. Jean

To close

Title: The Congress of Vienna.

Author : GODEFROY Jean (1771 - 1839)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 65 - Width 82

Technique and other indications: Diamond point engraving after Jean-Baptiste ISABEY (1767-1855).Subtitle : France, Austria, Prussia and England come together to decide, after the ouster of Napoleon I, on a new balance in Europe

Storage location: National Museum of Malmaison Castle website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 05-525634 / MM4047 8129

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

From the Treaty of Paris to the Congress of Vienna

On May 30, 1814, England, Austria, Prussia and Russia, having triumphed together for the first time against Napoleon Ier , sign in Paris a treaty with the new French sovereign, Louis XVIII. The Allied Powers want by this treaty "to put an end to the long agitations of Europe and the misfortunes of the peoples, by a solid peace, based on a fair distribution of forces among the Powers". They all agreed to meet two months later in Vienna "to add to it the arrangements made necessary by the state in which Europe had remained" following the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire.

Negotiator as Louis XVIII's foreign minister, Talleyrand declared after the signing: "I have finished my peace. "It spares a France which, by rediscovering more or less its borders of 1792 (ie before the revolutionary wars), ceases" to be gigantic in order to become great ".

In Vienna, Talleyrand must keep the achievements. The final act was signed on June 9, 1815 after much discussion and despite Napoleon's return to France in March, a return which singularly complicates the task of the minister of a king in exile.

Wanting to preserve the image of such an event, he took with him the portrait painter Isabey, who then planned to reach Vienna, and invited him to be inspired by the painting by ter Borch representing the ratification of the Treaty of Westphalia in Münster in 1648. Isabey's creation, however, had to wait for the politically calmer years of 1816-1820 to be exposed and disseminated.

Image Analysis

The respective place of European powers

Isabey sets the scene in the place of official meetings, the residence of Austrian Chancellor Metternich. If the portrait of Emperor Francis Ier hangs prominently on the wall, the Chancellery at Ballhausplatz also preserves the memory of Kaunitz, Marie-Thérèse's chancellor: her bust appears on the right, and a portrait of the Empress hangs in the adjoining salon.

In her studio in the suburb of Leopoldstadt, Isabey portrays many personalities, some of whom were present at the Vienna Congress. To vary the pauses and attitudes in such a group portrait, he chooses to represent the “familiar chat” that takes place after the session is over.

The twenty-two ministers plenipotentiary and their assistants are not all identifiable in the sketch used. Isabey made a second of the size and precision necessary for its engraving by Godefroy (collection of the Queen of England).

The characters are divided into two groups. The first stands by the window around Metternich, who, standing in front of a chair, stares at the viewer and appears to be conversing with Russian representative Stackelberg seated at the other end of the stage. This is part of the second group, still gathered around the negotiating table. In the center, the empty chair of the chairman occupies the foreground. English Minister Castelreagh sits behind her in a nonchalant pose. His compatriot Wellington, winner of Waterloo, appears only in the engraving, standing on the far left. Sitting near him, the Prussian Hardenberg seems to be staring at Talleyrand. The latter, whose features are only recognizable on the engraving, is seated in front of the table, his right arm resting on it, calling the spectator to witness.

In the frieze which borders the engraving appear the title, the portraits of the sovereigns, the arms of the nations and the delegates, and allegorical figures.


Talleyrand defender of the balance between the European powers

Talleyrand was accepted to the negotiating table shortly before the opening of the congress, where he succeeded in bringing in Spain, Portugal and Sweden, non-signatories to the Treaty of Paris. He secretly deals with England and Austria (which obtains in Congress the seizure of Italy and the presidency of a Germanic Confederation) to counter the hegemonic inclinations of Prussia and Russia (which expand their territories in particular to detriment of other German states and Poland).

Talleyrand does not defend the rights of peoples, but monarchical law and the balance between powers like Castelreagh, architect of the alliance against Napoleon and supporter of diplomatic congresses; hence its pivotal place under the balanced scales of Justice. Justice, Truth, Wisdom and Science refute the idea of ​​this "Holy Alliance" that Tsar Alexander wants to impose. The order of Vienna will rule Europe for forty years before being swept away by the nationalism movement. Isabey predicts the future when he portrays the Prussian Hardenberg lurking in the shadows.

The large design was undoubtedly successful when Isabey added Wellington to it, who, arriving in Vienna in February 1815, quickly left to go against Napoleon. Despite the Hundred Days, the final act was signed on June 9, 1815. Isabey then moved to Paris. In 1817, back in Paris after an exile in London, he exhibited his large drawing at the Salon. The engraving was finally deposited in the Royal Library on February 12, 1820.

Talleyrand then saw himself retired from business. He did not negotiate the second Treaty of Paris, of November 20, 1815, which further reduced the territory of occupied France and which had to pay heavy indemnities to the allies. But it is this vision of the Congress of Vienna, during which the country once again asserts its rank among the European powers, which is passed down to posterity. It also devotes its cultural influence in the same way as the memorable dinners of the Lenten cook then offered by Talleyrand and followed by “familiar talks” where brie was even proclaimed one evening king of cheeses.

  • fall of the Empire
  • Congress of Vienna
  • Restoration
  • Holy alliance
  • Talleyrand-Périgord (Charles-Maurice de)


Talleyrand ou le Miroir trompeur, exhibition catalog of the Rolin museum, Autun, 16 November 2005 - 15 February 2006, Paris-Autun, Somogy-Musée Rolin, 2005. François DEMIER, La France du XIXe siècle, Paris, Le Seuil, coll . “Points Histoire”, 2000.

To cite this article

Guillaume NICOUD, "The Congress of Vienna"

Video: The Congress of Vienna: Metternichs Conservative Order AP Euro