“She Smelled of Petroleum”: The Paris Commune in a German Family Magazine

The only treatment of the Paris Commune in the pages of Germany’s most popular illustrated weekly, the Gartenlaube, in 1871 was a sympathetic portrayal of a woman executed on the false allegation of being a pétroleuse. This essay introduces the article, “She Smelled of Petroleum,” and its accompanying wood engraving, “Street Execution after the Taking of Paris,” in the context of German reactions to the Paris Commune, the international circulation of images of the pétroleuse, and the mission of “family magazines” like the Gartenlaube. The article and illustration both echoed and responded to the broader international media response to the Commune, and, in keeping with the magazine’s domestic perspective, anchored the story of the semaine sanglante in the tragedies experienced by women.

Maureen DeNino
Smith College
Volume 49.3–4