Allegory to French Republic- Mouchon’s Take Using Postage Stamps


Feb 19, 2015 Europe/London
Louis-Eugene Mouchon's French Stamp Design

When it comes to stamp design and engraving, the name Louis-Eugene Mouchon is always included in the list, thanks to his top designs that impressed not just his native France but also other collectors from Iran, Ethiopia and various European countries. The portfolio is extensive, but there’s one that’s tagged under his name, the stamp shown above. While this was considered by many as a great achievement, it was in fact received with some criticisms. To set the record straight, this 1900 series featured the work of three designers, and the artist was the one who designed the middle values, between ‘Merson’ and ‘Blanc’ values.

Experts and students of philately are one in saying that the image shows a female allegory of the government of France with the Sceptre of Justice and Human Rights tablet and the Phrygian cap. If you read the image carefully, you’ll find a lion’s head just making its way out of the bra which can be read as an act of defiance.

The design and the details of the stamp were questioned and scorned, not just by persons studying philately but by everyone interested in the French Republic. According to some observers, the image reflects a promiscuous woman inviting men for fun. And for others, the complaint centered on the design and the use of the value tablet.

This postage stamp was completed in typography with two plates, one for numeral of value and the other for design. This is the reason why the four values that were first printed show misplaced numerals and even without denominations. The stamps in question include the 30c mauve, 20c brown and 10c carmine. A second printing was made, this time the series included the 15c orange, 25c and 10c. There are some pointers to remember when identifying the stamps. For example, the base of ‘1’ in the 10c was flat for type I and curved on II.

Due to the comments and flak received, the designer was asked to improve the design, and a redrawn image was submitted and introduced in April, 1902. All these new versions featured the subtle tablet and less heavy shades. However, the efforts were never enough and this was soon replaced by another stamp called the ‘Sower’ definitive. Even though the redrawn version was disapproved, still this design was used in the colonies and was in use for three decades. In fact the design has a special place in the philately history of the French - it shows students of philately the condition of France at the height of colonialism.