Les Misérables Chapter-a-Day Read-along: Illustrations by Émile Bayard

When Les Misérables was first published in 1862, it was illustrated by Émile Bayard, whose rendering of little Cosette perfectly captures the essence of what Hugo means by les misérables. To me it’s mostly in the eyes and the tiny mouth, but the massive broom in her hands as she sweeps adds to the sadness. Bayard’s image of Cosette’s face is known the world over, thanks to the Cameron Mackintosh musical, as it was adapted and used in countless promotional posters, advertisements, album covers–almost anything connected with the musical.

Les Miserables Musical PosterLes Misérables Signet Classic

Les Misérables Mug

But Bayard created dozens of other illustrations for the novel, many of which you’ve already seen if you’ve been following the read-along here at One Catholic Life or on Twitter. I love his illustrations and will continue to use them as we make our way through the book. For this week’s post I’m recapping some of my favorite images so far, along with a few I didn’t get the chance to use. Do you have a favorite among them? All of the following images illustrate scenes from the first forty-two chapters of the book–no spoilers, now!

Émile Bayard - The Bishop

Émile Bayard - The Comforter


Émile Bayard - M. Myriel's Garden

Émile Bayard - The Fall

Émile Bayard - Jean Valjean

Émile Bayard - The Bishop and the Convict

Émile Bayard - The Two Caryatids

Émile Bayard - The Man Awakened

Émile Bayard - In the Year 1817

Émile Bayard - Fantine

Émile Bayard - Cosette Sweeping

Émile Bayard - The Thenardiers

Deacon Nick

Nick Senger is a husband, a father of four, a Roman Catholic deacon and a Catholic school teacher, vice principal and technology coordinator. He taught junior high literature and writing for over 25 years, and has been a Catholic school educator since 1990. In 2001 he was named a Distinguished Teacher of the Year by the National Catholic Education Association.

3 Responses

  1. Brona says:

    Curiously I like the one of Myriel in his garden – it has a Japanese feel to it which I find appealing right now.

  2. Ruthiella says:

    I am glad you are putting the illustrations on the blog because I am mainly reading on my Kindle which doesn’t have any! I particularly appreciate illustrations for providing me with a visual as to how people dressed in the time period.

    I have to admit, however, that the portrait of Fantine doesn’t make here out to be all that pretty!

  3. BJ says:

    I like the illustrations you posted and look forward to seeing more. Sadly, my book doesn’t have any illustrations inside. The cover has a small one of Cosette, but it only shows her sad little face and shoulders. Now I know how important that big broom is to the illustration and to Cosette’s story…at least so far.

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