“Dreyfus à l’Ile du Diable,” (Dreyfus on Devil’s Island)

Item Description

Devil’s Island was part of a French penal colony devoted primarily to political prisoners off the coast of French Guiana. Dreyfus was exiled there in 1894, and did not leave until 1899, when he returned to France for his retrial.
In this image, Dreyfus turns away from his book in frustration, lost in his thoughts, as a prison guard watches him. Here, Le Petit Journal satisfies the French public’s curiosity to imagine Dreyfus’ condition after his highly publicized trial. A year earlier, they expressed their outrage at the presence of his mustache, claiming that alongside his imprisonment, he should be stripped of such symbols of his nationality: "We were told that the traitor, upon imprisonment, was to have his mustache shaved, hair cut, and be forced to don a prison uniform. None of this has happened; Ah! if he had stolen bread, they would have been as strict as possible; but don’t worry, he has only sold out his homeland."