- Liberty Leading the People
title=Liberty Leading the People
other_title_1=La Liberté guidant le peuple
type=Oil on canvas
width_inch = 128.0
"Liberty Leading the People" ( _fr. La Liberté guidant le peuple) is a painting by
Eugène Delacroixcommemorating the July Revolutionof 1830, which toppled Charles X. A woman personifying Libertyleads the people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the "tricolore" flagof the French Revolutionin one hand and brandishing a bayonetted musketwith the other. This is perhaps Delacroix's best-known painting, having carved its own niche in popular culture.
Delacroix painted his work in the autumn of 1830. In a letter to his brother dated 12 October, he wrote: "My bad mood is vanishing thanks to hard work. I’ve embarked on a modern subject – a
barricade. And if I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her." The painting was first exhibited at the official Salon of May 1831. Delacroix rejected the norms of Academicism in favor of Romanticism.
He depicted Liberty, personified by
Marianne, symbol of the nation, as both an allegorical goddess-figure and a robust woman of the people, an approach that contemporary critics denounced as "ignoble". The mound of corpses acts as a kind of pedestalfrom which Liberty strides, barefoot and bare-breasted, out of the canvas and into the space of the viewer. The Phrygian capshe wears had come to symbolise liberty during the French Revolutionof 1789.
The fighters are from a mixture of social classes, ranging from the upper classes represented by the young man in a
top hat, who is said to be Delacroix himself, to the revolutionary middle class or ( bourgeoisie), as exemplified by the boy holding pistols (believed to be the inspiration for the character Gavrochein Victor Hugo's Les Misérables). What they have in common is the fierceness and determination in their eyes. Aside from the flag held by Liberty, a second, minute "tricolore" can be discerned in the distance flying from the towers of Notre Dame.
The identity of the man in the top hat has been widely debated. The suggestion that it was a self-portrait by Delacroix has been discounted by modern art historians [ Toussaint, Hélene, (1982). "La Liberté guidant le peuple de Delacroix". Paris: Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux ] . In the late 19th century, it was suggested the model was the theatre director
Etienne Arago, but there is no firm consensus on this point.
The French government bought the painting for 3,000 francs with the intention of displaying it in the throne room of the
Palais du Luxembourgas a reminder to the "citizen-king" Louis-Philippe of the July Revolution, through which he had come to power. This plan did not come to fruition and the canvas was hung in the Palace museum for a few months before being taken down for its inflammatory political message. Delacroix was permitted to send the painting to his aunt Félicité for safekeeping. It was exhibited briefly in 1848 and then in the Salon of 1855. In 1874, the painting entered the Louvre.
An engraved version of this painting, along with a depiction of Delacroix himself, was featured on the 100-franc note in the early 1990s.
alternative rockgroup Coldplayused Delacroix's painting as part of the artwork for their fourth album, " Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends".
The painting is featured on the front cover of Eric Hobsbawms "Age of Revolution."
* Prideaux, Tom, etc. (1972). "The World of Delacroix". United States: Time Life.
* Toussaint, Hélene, (1982). "La Liberté guidant le peuple de Delacroix". Paris: Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux.
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