Liberty Leading the People


Liberty Leading the People

Infobox Painting|

title=Liberty Leading the People
other_language_1=French
other_title_1=La Liberté guidant le peuple
artist=Eugène Delacroix
year=1830
type=Oil on canvas
height=260
width=325
height_inch=102.4
width_inch = 128.0
city=Paris
museum=Louvre

"Liberty Leading the People" ( _fr. La Liberté guidant le peuple) is a painting by Eugène Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled Charles X. A woman personifying Liberty leads the people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the "tricolore" flag of the French Revolution in one hand and brandishing a bayonetted musket with the other. This is perhaps Delacroix's best-known painting, having carved its own niche in popular culture.

Painting

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 pedestal from which Liberty strides, barefoot and bare-breasted, out of the canvas and into the space of the viewer. The Phrygian cap she wears had come to symbolise liberty during the French Revolution of 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 Gavroche in 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.

Political use

The French government bought the painting for 3,000 francs with the intention of displaying it in the throne room of the Palais du Luxembourg as 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.

Legacy

An engraved version of this painting, along with a depiction of Delacroix himself, was featured on the 100-franc note in the early 1990s.

The British alternative rock group Coldplay used 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."

References

Bibliography

* 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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