Censored during the Second Empire, caricatures of the imperial family proliferated after the French defeat at Sedan and the fall of Napoleon III.
Alexis draws a parodic family portrait of those who imposed for twenty years a liberticidal regime on France: “Our Despots…”. Empress Eugenie’s portrayal as a “Madonna and child” contrasts comically with her posture, expressing the duplicity of a pious woman with loose morals, ready to do anything to ensure her son’s power. The swaddled adolescent prince hardly seems capable of succeeding. Napoleon I turns his back to the pitiful picture offered by his descendants, while Napoleon III prides himself on this heritage, reproducing the famous gesture of Napoleon I’s hand, immortalised by the painter Jacques-Louis David.
The chamber pot on which the imperial crown rests, the clyster and the bottle of “copahu” (copaiba) –usually used for enemas– introduce a touch of scatological humour. The Napoleons are depicted as a degenerate family from which the French must purge themselves.