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Images and descriptions of the accused under the Third Republic

The Redureau case : Marcel Redureau

Patricia Bass

Images of the victims in the popular press, October 1913

Source : Gallica : Le Matin

As the easily-reproduced stock photograph decreased the rarity of images, it also increased their homogeneity – Le Petit Parisien, Le Petit Journal, Le Matin, and Le Journal all published the same stock photograph of Redureau in handcuffs accompanied by a police officer, albeit cropped and manipulated in different ways. This same image of Marcel Redureau was also published by l’Ouest Éclair, a local paper, and by Het Leven, a Dutch weekly, and was also included in the case file studied by the court magistrate.

Given the auxiliary role of images in the daily press (where image illustrated text instead of the text-illustrates-image model of weeklies), it is unsurprising that the articles accompanying the stock photo of Redureau do not mention the photograph at all. The image speaks for itself: the juxtaposition of the young suspect, wearing the clothes of rural workers, cringing in fear or in pain, with the solemn and official figure of the policeman leaves little doubt regarding their respective roles of antagonist/protagonist. The erased background in the Petit Journal and the fact that the policeman is completely cropped out of the images in the Matin and the Petit Parisien serve to draw the eye of the reader towards the accused.

The publication of this photo bears witness to a particularly strong desire to see or make seen the accused in light of the recent adoption of a law on July 22nd 1912 establishing a fine (between one and two hundred francs) for the publication of any portrait or illustration of an underage criminal or their crime. Newspapers blatantly risked this punishment, just as they often ignored article 58 of the law of 1881 prohibiting the publication of any information on criminal cases before they had been read in a court of law. As Kalifa describes in his study of 19th-century crime journalism, the establishment of such limits on the press by the justice system, and newspapers’ reticence to follow them, created a form of competition and even hostility between the courts and newspapers during the turn of the century [Kalifa 1995].

Sources:

La loi du 22 juillet 1912 sur les tribunaux pour enfants et adolescents, Criminocorpus [En ligne] publiée le 21 septembre 2007, consultée le 19 mai 2014. URL: https://criminocorpus.org/sources/12796/

Dominique Kalifa, L’encre et le sang, Paris: Fayard, 1995.

Images of the victims in the popular press, October 1913

Source : Gallica : Le Petit Journal

Images of the victims in the popular press, October 1913

Source : Gallica : Le Petit Parisien

Representing the childhood of the murderer, October 1914

Source : Gallica : Le Matin

The Petit Parisien printed this photo of Marcel Redureau, at 9 years old, in order to illustrate a narrative of his childhood. The image separates the text of the article into two parts, the first focusing on his childhood, the second on his life in the working world.

In the first part, the article describes how for rural children, “school, where they stay only a short while – just the necessary time to get their certificate - is, of course, the best time of their lives.” Next, Redureau’s childhood is described: he was a perfect schoolboy, according to his teacher and his uncle. The second part of the text touches upon his first job at the Mabit farm, where he was employed as a farmhand. The article is both a condemnation of the difficult life of rural adolescants, and an attempt to explain the crime; it’s title reads: “The small monster’s lawyer requests a mental examination: Overwork? A crisis of puberty?”

The article and the photograph of young Redureau are but two examples of newspapers’ increasing interest in the psychology of criminals. Newspapers began publishing detailed biographies of suspects and criminals during the turn-of-the-century [Kalifa 1995], and simultaneously began giving more and more attention to the forensic scientists assigned to conduct “mental examinations” of the accused. Newspapers referred to these experts by name (in the Gouffé, Vidal and Redureau cases), cited them, and even, on occasion, contested their analyses.

During the Redureau case, the Journal uses a criminological vocabulary drawn from the work of Cesare Lombroso, when it states that “this fifteen-year-old boy [Redureau] has neither the hereditary anomalies nor the stigmata of degeneracy which characterize the born-criminal.” References to visible signs of criminality (or a lack of them) on Redureau’s body appeared in the Matin, the Temps, the Phare de la Loire, the Petit Journal and the Petit Parisien during the two days following the discovery of the crime. Six months later, the forensic scientists assigned to the case cited these newspapers in their mental examination. On the first page of their report for the judge, they summarize as follows:

“Nor is [Redureau] a degenerate in the somatic sense of the word, despite the far-fetched descriptions that may be read in some of the newspaper reports of the trial. 'This boy', wrote one of them, 'is practically a child whose physical development is not yet complete...when standing he is as tall as a bale of hay'. In fact, Redureau measures 1 meter, 584, or 5 centimetres above Quételet's average for 16-year-old boys. The same newspaper continues in this manner: 'His head is big, with locks of blond hair that fall on a low, bulging forehead. His profile is recessive, with a straight nose over a widely-stretched mouth'. Not one of these details is correct or corresponds with reality. His forehead is neither low nor particularly bulging and not at all receding. The head and face, taken together, are very evenly proportioned; not the slightest sign of Morel's stigma is to be seen. The same error appears with respect to the ears…the only distinctive feature they offer is Darwin's tubercle, which is no doubt exceptional but not a disorder. ”

Sources:

Le Journal, Oct 4th 1913.

Cullere et Desclaux, « L’affaire Redureau. Assassinat de sept personnes par un enfant de quinze ans. Examen mental. » in Les Archives de l'Anthropologie Criminelle, t. 29, 1914: pp. 629-645, 629-630.

Representing the childhood of the murderer, October 1914

Source : Gallica : Le Petit Journal

Representing the childhood of the murderer, October 1914

Source : Gallica : Le Petit Parisien

Representing the childhood of the murderer, October 1914

Source : Gallica : Le Petit Parisien

Iconographic souvineers of a sensationalized crime. Viewable and for sale on the site www.delcampe.fr, item number: 190392880

Source : Vasselier, postcard series on the theme of the crime of Bas-Briacé

This series was produced during the golden age of the French postcard, the period between 1910 and 1914 when the annual production of cartes postales rose from 100 million to 800 million.

Unlike contemporary postcards, disasters, crimes and political or social events were common subjects of the postcards from the early 20th century. For example, a large number were printed on the subject of the great 1910 Paris flood, the Courrières mine disaster, and criminal events, such as the shoot-out between the Bonnot Gang and the police in the Parisian suburbs in 1912. These postcards served to spread news of current events via the dissemination of images, much like the illustrated press and the covers of laments. “From a political point of view”, wrote Emile Strauss in his magazine La Carte Postale illustrée in 1899, “the postcard will be a great supplement to illustrated newspapers, satires and pamphlets.”

Whereas postcards themed on crimes often represented the criminals with portraits (for example, the famous “bandit queen” La Casque d’Or, or criminal Jean Théry), this series primarily represents the funeral rites of the victims. Whether it was criminals or the rites of the victims which were represented, these postcards provided ways of visualizing and thus understanding crime: the public could either look for an explanation in the image of the accused, or for a cathartic understanding in the social event of the funeral ceremony.

The funeral did indeed affect the entre town and even the national press. The Journal, a widely-distributed national daily, declared on October 3rd 1913: “Cars, bicycles, and train-cars packed with people brought a multitude of individuals wanting to show their painful condolences to the Mabit family. The mourning was led by Mr. Mabit’s brother, his wife and Mr. Paquereau. Every member of city council, mutual aid companies, and the three doctors of the town were all present at the funeral.”

The Nantes editor Vassellier, known primarily printing postcards of Brittany, produced this series using collotype plates. Collotype is a photographic process invented in the 1850s that employs a glass plate and thick ink, and it was the most common method of printing postcards until the 1930s.

Sources:

Serge Zeyons, Les cartes postales, le manuel de l’amateur, Paris: Hachette, 1979.

Ripert, Aline et Frère, Claude, La carte postale, son histoire, sa fonction sociale, Lyon: CNRS, 1983.

Ado Kyrou, L’âge d’or de la carte postale, Paris: A. Balland, 1975.

Iconographic souvineers of a sensationalized crime. Viewable and for sale on the site www.delcampe.fr, item number: 190392880

Source : Vasselier, postcard series on the theme of the crime of Bas-Briacé

Iconographic souvineers of a sensationalized crime. Viewable and for sale on the site www.delcampe.fr, item number: 190392880

Source : Vasselier, postcard series on the theme of the crime of Bas-Briacé

Iconographic souvineers of a sensationalized crime. Viewable and for sale on the site www.delcampe.fr, item number: 190392880

Source : Vasselier, postcard series on the theme of the crime of Bas-Briacé

Iconographic souvineers of a sensationalized crime. Viewable and for sale on the site www.delcampe.fr, item number: 190392880

Source : Vasselier, postcard series on the theme of the crime of Bas-Briacé

Iconographic souvineers of a sensationalized crime. Viewable and for sale on the site www.delcampe.fr, item number: 190392880

Source : Vasselier, postcard series on the theme of the crime of Bas-Briacé

Iconographic souvineers of a sensationalized crime. Viewable and for sale on the site www.delcampe.fr, item number: 190392880

Source : Vasselier, postcard series on the theme of the crime of Bas-Briacé

Iconographic souvineers of a sensationalized crime. Viewable and for sale on the site www.delcampe.fr, item number: 190392880

Source : Vasselier, postcard series on the theme of the crime of Bas-Briacé

Iconographic souvineers of a sensationalized crime. Viewable and for sale on the site www.delcampe.fr, item number: 190392880

Source : Vasselier, postcard series on the theme of the crime of Bas-Briacé

Iconographic souvineers of a sensationalized crime. Viewable and for sale on the site www.delcampe.fr, item number: 190392880

Source : Vasselier, postcard series on the theme of the crime of Bas-Briacé