The story behind this art is a truly sad one.
Anne-Josèphe Théroigne de Méricourt (1762 -1817) was a Belgian singer, orator and organizer active in Paris at the time of the French Revolution. During this tumultuous period, she became known as a defender of the poor and a fierce advocate for women’s rights.
At the beginning of 1792, Théroigne was back in Paris. She now supported Brissot, a Girondin, against Robespierre, and gave many an inflammatory speeches in the Jacobin Club in which she called for the liberation of women from oppression. But this time, she didn’t just fight with words. She recruited an army of female warriors, and took part in the storming of the Tuileries on 10th August. It is said that she wounded a royalist journalist who had insulted her in the press. He was then killed by the mob.
But she didn’t support the September Massacres, believing all this unnecessary violence was hurting the cause of the Revolution. She wanted it to stop, but it didn’t. Things got worse for Théroigne. In May 1793, a bunch of Jacobin women who hated the supporters of Brissot and the Girondin, attacked Théroigne in the gardens of the Tuileries. They stripped her naked and flogged her publicly. Only the intervention of Marat saved her.
Sadly she descended into madness, was declared officially insane. She spent the rest of her life in various asylums, and was ultimately sent to La Salpêtrière Hospital, where she lived for twenty years.