Politics and Propaganda : Overview

The events of the seventeenth century, including the Thirty Years War, which involved the Franco-Spanish War, had a large influence on the art created in this period. During this time, various forms of media were used to spread a specific kind of message. From prints to playing cards, subtle propaganda permeated every level of society. Many people could not read or write and so these representations were a way to make statements about life in the seventeenth century accessible to a wide variety of people. 

The print Catafalque de l'Empereure Mathias by Jaques Callot shows the people an event that they could not attend to to their status. The print displays the wealth of the high court. It is a funeral scene that signifies a change in power and reinforces the power of the Holy Roman Emperor. The people of Italy saw the symbolism included in the detailed print and the subtle propaganda of the high court was reinforced. With Emperor Mathias' death began the Thirty Years War. 

Les Grandes Misères de la guerre by Jacques Callot was produced fourteen years after Catafalque de l'Empereure Mathias (mentioned above) and used the Baroque style for a new audience; the French public. This etching was made in the middle of the Thirty Years' War and gave a voice to the common people, becoming the the first widely popularized anti-war propaganda in history.

La Fortune de la France by Abraham Bosse displays a passionate, nationalistic view of France defeating its Spanish enemies. It was mass produced and circulated throughout France, perpetuating the message that France would be victorious in all endeavors.

Political propaganda was not limited to traditional art forms. Items as commonplace as playing cards could be used to educate the public about the ruling class, as seen in Four Playing Cards, a set of 17th century French cards depicting images of historical and legendary leaders. Additionally, these mytho-historical figures were engrained into the minds of future rulers, like Louis XIV, who was taught using cards as an educational tool. Since they were printed with woodcuts, cards could be easily mass produced and distributed. They were also readily accessible to anyone regardless of socioeconomic class, since gaming as a practice tended to be unifying in nature.