The Sarajevo bombing

The Sarajevo bombing

  • Fatal shot on Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife on June 28, 1914

    SCHWORMSTÄDT Felix (1870 - 1938)

  • Arrest of the assassin Gavrilo Princip after the attack on the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife


Fatal shot on Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife on June 28, 1914

© BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / BPK image

To close

Title: Arrest of the assassin Gavrilo Princip after the attack on the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1914 -

Date shown: June 28, 1914

Storage location: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin) website

Contact copyright: BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / BPK image

Picture reference: 11-559988

Arrest of the assassin Gavrilo Princip after the attack on the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife

© BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / BPK image

Publication date: September 2018

Historical context

An international impact

Occurring in a tense international context between the great European powers, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and of his wife Sophie Chotek, Duchess of Hohenberg, on June 28, 1914, had immense repercussions in all European countries. One of the terrorists dare not fire; another launches his bomb, which bounces off the top of the car before exploding, missing its target; and Gavrilo Princip himself is in a bad position on Franz Ferdinand’s first pass. When we notice the mistake, we stop the convoy to change lanes, offering a new opportunity to Princip who steps forward, climbs on the vehicle's step and fires twice on the couple, killing François-Ferdinand and his wife.

This drawing - which appeared a few days after the attack in the Leipziger Illustrirte Zeitung, a large-circulation weekly periodical (100,000 copies in 1914) - and this anonymous photograph inform us in their own way about this historic moment.

Image Analysis

The attack and its perpetrator

Originally in color but here offered in black and white, Fatal shot on Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria is a drawing by Felix Schwormstädt (1870-1938) a famous German painter and illustrator. With a great sense of movement and a certain theatricalization (see the expression of the Archduchess, as a vulnerable and frightened young woman), the artist chooses the critical and decisive moment, the one when Princip rushes towards the car to fire on François-Ferdinand and his wife - their faces are true to life but the costumes do not match those worn that day. There is also a certain aestheticization of the criminal (the powerful arm, the modern costume and hairstyle, the determined and fairly manly posture). In the background, an indecisive and fairly moving crowd adds a "historical" touch.

Arrest of the assassin Gavrilo Princip is an anonymous photograph taken on June 28, 1914 (the poor quality of the image suggests that this is in fact a reproduction of it). After being disarmed by onlookers in the crowd, Garvilo Princip was first arrested by the police. Here, he would rather be supervised by Austro-Hungarian soldiers, probably during his transfer to the city's central police station. The 20-year-old appears full frame, fairly close to the lens, appearing to occupy and organize the entire composition of the photograph. Dressed in a dark civilian costume, with very dark eyes and hair, he stands erect with one hand behind his back. Looking vague, Princip seems relaxed, somewhere else, hallucinated. A slight smirk bars his face, making it look both strange and fascinating.


Telling June 28: at the crossroads of representations

At the crossroads of two iconographic trends, the two representations bear different witness to this day of June 28, 1914. Inscribed in the great tradition of the European illustrated press of the 19th centurye century of which it takes again the codes and the characteristic style, the drawing intends to capture and stage all the dramaturgy of the event in order to restore it to the greatest number. Halfway between the news story of a novel (a crime in the street with its stereotypical characters, the stupor and the well-marked expressions of the protagonists) and the political fact (the crowd, the identity of the victims), the image makes of this attack a "great moment" both romantic and historical.

We do not know who took the photograph (a passer-by? A journalist? A member of the police?), Just as we do not know anything of a possible later use that would have been made (in the press or in the trial, as for other photographs of the arrest), but we note that the episode of the arrest is reported here in a more documentary and “objective” manner. It is precisely this sobriety that brings out the mysterious or even enigmatic face of Princip, giving all its strength to the shot.

Thus, on the first document, it is a character that emerges, whose armed arm swings the plot, in Sarajevo and perhaps all over the continent. In the photograph, he is a man standing out from the fairly uniform mass of soldiers, the center of news and attention.

  • assassinations
  • Europe
  • regicide
  • hurry
  • War of 14-18
  • attack


CLARK, Christopher, the somnambulists: Summer 1914: how Europe walked towards war, Paris, Flammarion, 2013.

COCHET, François et Porte, Rémy, Dictionary of the Great War 1914 - 1918, Paris, Robert Laffont, 2008.

KRUMEICH, Gerd, The powder. Who started the war in 1914?, Paris, Belin, coll. “History”, 2014.

VALLAUD, Pierre, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The Sarajevo Bombing"