Monday, June 5, 2023





A VISIT  TO LOUVRE MUSEUM, PARIS...Liberty Leading the People by  Eugène Delacroix
(2.6 m x 3.25 m)
( Lying inside Loure Museum Denon Wing,Room No 700 level 1) 

Eugene Delacroix is best known today for this painting. This painting was inspired by  the 'July 1830 Revolution ' when the people of Paris rose up against King Charles X.The Bourbon kings who had been restored to power during the conservative reaction after 1815, were now overthrown by liberal revolutionaries who installed a constitutional monarchy with Louis Philippe at its head.

In this painting  the Parisians are depicted breaking through a barricade. The female figure at the top of the composition ,partly looking like a classical Greek  goddess, partly a woman of the people – leads the crowd of revolutionaries  inspiring them to move  forward .Waving   the tricolour flag, she is presented as a symbol of Liberty. This half-nude female figure dominates the monumental painting  as she charges forward .She is a personification of Liberty, a classical symbol  used throughout the history of art. In the background , one can see Notre Dame  covered by  smoke. In fact , the smoke appears to be rising and making the cathedral visible. The cathedral is the only structure that Delacroix included in this charged scene .The composition is pyramidal and the colours are fairly muted. 

Delacroix deliberately used the colours blue, white and red ( a combination appearing in French flag)  several times in this painting. This French flag was a  symbol of the 1789 uprising. He painted 'Liberty Leading the People ' in order to voice his support for the cause, commemorate those who risked their lives during the July Revolution, and, above all else, honour France.

 Alongside Liberty, we see another easily recognisable character in the composition. He is a young boy from Paris, what the French might call a “titi”. This indicates a child who knows the ins and outs of Paris and was practically raised in the streets. He dons a black velvet beret (a feluche) which is what the students wore at the time. This boy is thus the symbol of the youth’s revolt. He doesn’t look to the woman beside him but instead mimics her pose, charging forward. In this work, Liberty  is unique. And though female, she is not “feminine”. Delacroix’s depiction of a half-nude woman was not in keeping with the artistic norms of his time. She is gritty, aggressive, and has armpit hair! The armpit hair created some criticism at that point in time. In

Her choice of weapon should not go unnoticed. She holds an 1816 infantry bayonet. This was resolutely modern and the main weapon used in the 1830 uprising. Stepping over dead bodies with her bare feet, she marches forward with the people behind her.The painting was transferred to the Louvre in 1874  and over time it became one of Delacroix’s most popular works.Moreover, this masterpiece has been used for many stamps and the old 100-Franc notes.There may be no other work of art that touches the spirit of France so profoundly as this painting.

( Avtar Mota)

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