The French Revolution was a civil revolution that began on 14 July 1789 and ended on 28 July 1794. The main cause was a disillusionment with the government due to the economic crisis and unequal estate system. In the late 1780s, the French population was divided into three estates. The First Estate was the Roman Catholic clergy, the second estate was French nobles, and the third estate included merchants, lawyers, laborers, and peasants. Although the majority of the French population was the third estate, they had limited political power and a heavy tax burden, while the other two estates were exempted. Hence, the power of the first and second estates was high. Such inequality and economic crisis increased the discontent with the French monarchy, which triggered the French Revolution. As a result, it led to the execution of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by guillotine. Also, it changed the government from a monarchy to a republic and formed the constitution based on the principle of freedom and equality.
This political cartoon "The zenith of French Glory" is created by James Gillray, who was a British caricaturist. It was illustrated in 1793, which means this cartoon was drawn during the French Revolution. Gillray drew this cartoon to commemorate the beheading of Louis XVI. Also, as Gillray had a conservative stance on the French revolution, he used this cartoon as propaganda to show that the French revolutionaries could be dangerous.
The technique of labels can be seen in the flag. “Vive l'Égalité” means “long live equality” in English and is labeled on the flag. However, it is ironic that they pursued ‘long live equality’ while killing monks and hanging them in the lamp post. It contradicts their beliefs, which is ironic.
The label can be seen in the Phrygian cap. In the cartoon, a man is sitting on the lamp post. "Ca ira" is written on his hat, meaning 'it will be fine' in English. Ca ira is a song sung by the working-class radicals during the French Revolution. However, as the brutal background contradicts the hopeful lyrics, it creates an irony. It connects with the Gillray's stance on the French Revolution.
Lastly, the technique of labels can be seen in a hat. “Libertas” is labeled in the hat next to the man sitting on the lamp post. Libertas is the Roman goddess and personification of liberty, and it means 'liberty' or 'freedom' in Latin. Also, the hat hung high, which signifies that the revolutionaries craved freedom.
The technique of symbolism can be seen in the hat. In front of the guillotine, everyone is wearing a hat named a Phrygian cap. During ancient times, the Phrygian cap was used as a symbol of liberty in the French Revolution. However, it did not use as a liberty cap in the first place. In ancient Rome, the freed slave wore hats of a similar style called "pileus" to represent their freedom. Therefore, in Europe, it was later assumed that the Phrygian cap and pileus was the same.
The technique of symbolism can be also seen in the crown in the guillotine. It depicted the situation when one person had executed in the guillotine. Although it did not label one's name, the crown in the guillotine stands for the king. By considering the crown and the time of this cartoon, it is noticeable that the person who executed was King Louis XVI. Hence, the author drew the situation when King Louis XVI had executed.