Smells, Bells and Touch: Iconoclasm in Paris during the French Revolution

Richard Clay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the ways in which Parisians mobilised sight, smell, touch and sound to alter their city's ‘signscape’ and mediate power relations during the ancien régime and French Revolution. It uses contemporary sources to explore disputes about the treatment of statues of kings, busts of Jean-Paul Marat, and church bells. Given that impingements on visual signifiers' physical integrity often generated multi-sensory connotations that were readily understood by contemporaries, it is argued that the historiography of revolutionary iconoclasm has been too oculcentric. The paper ends by concluding that iconoclasm might be productively re-conceived as a form of sign transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521–533
Number of pages13
JournalJournal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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