« Ecce Lex » (Le Pendu)

  • Victor Hugo

  • 50,8 x 34,9 cm
  • [1854]
  • Pen and brown ink wash over graphite pencil, black ink, charcoal on laid paper
  • MVHP D 0967
  • Victor Hugo’s homes in Paris/Guernsey

While in exile in Jersey, Victor Hugo was deeply moved by the death sentence of John Charles Tapner on the neighbouring island of Guernsey. He protested against this and sought mercy for him, but to no avail. Tapner was hanged on 10 February 1854. Hugo did four drawings representing an emaciated convict hanging in the gallows. The museum contains two of these (Ecce and Ecce Lex) while the others are in the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts and in the Louvre.
Ecce Lex seems to have been particularly important to Hugo who always hung it close to him, in his bedroom at Marine Terrace in Jersey, in his study in the attic of Hauteville House before the construction of the Look out, as attested to by a photograph, and in the studio overlooking the garden. After the poet's death, this drawing was probably hung in the billiard room where it was still in 1987, when Hauteville House was donated. The drawing was transferred to Place des Vosges in 1985 for conservation reasons.
At the beginning of The Man Who Laughs, Gwynplaine’s encounter with the hanging body returns to this theme, giving it a literary equivalent in a powerful meditation on the tortured body. With Justitia, where a decapitated head floats in front of the guillotine, Ecce Lex is undoubtedly the most emblematic drawing of Victor Hugo's tireless fight against the death penalty.

Notice's author : Gérard Audinet