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  • The Triumph of Liberty.


  • France shows Liberty to distant nations which copy the Table of Human Rights.

    VALENTIN François (1738 - 1805)

  • Freedom.

    NANINE Jeanne-Louise Vallain, known as (1767 - 1815)

To close

Title: The Triumph of Liberty.

Author : COLINART (-)

Creation date : 1790

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 89 - Width 123

Technique and other indications: Also said The Triumph of the French Nation.Hulie on canvas.

Storage location: Museum of the French Revolution, Vizille website

Contact copyright: © Museum of the French Revolution, Vizille

Picture reference: MRF 1986-160

The Triumph of Liberty.

© Museum of the French Revolution, Vizille

France shows Liberty to distant nations which copy the Table of Human Rights.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Bellot

© Museum of the French Revolution, Vizille

Publication date: March 2008

Doctorate in Art History

Historical context

In the aftermath of the storming of the Bastille, banners, posters and engravings began to broadcast emblems of the triumph of the Revolution over despotism. But from this first eruption of symbols emerges a figure who will embody the French Nation, until the fall of the monarchy at least: Liberty.

Codified in the XVIIe century, its representation was subject to adjustments after 1789. TheIconology published by Gaucher in 1791 recalls that Liberty is traditionally represented in the guise of a young woman dressed in white, holding the scepter in one hand, which "expresses the empire that man has over himself through her" , and on the other the cap - pileus - which distinguished the freed slave among the Romans, the cat, enemy of constraint, sometimes accompanying him. But the author also records the new iconographic use that distinguishes the Freedom acquired through value : it is "a woman holding a pike surmounted by a cap and trampling on a yoke". Although this conventional representation is the most common during the Revolution, artists often freely dispose of the motifs that compose it.

Image Analysis

Symbolic landscape or naturalized allegory, the Triumph of Liberty de Colinart occupies, by its hybrid character, a special place in the iconography of Liberty. Sitting on a rocky podium, the goddess lives in a plausible natural place, each element of which is loaded with meaning. The left part of the landscape shows abundant nature (herd in the pasture, tree loaded with fruit) under a mild sky, while clouds darken the right part, the view of which is partly obscured by a felled tree, among whose branches lie the broken chains of despotism. The female figure stands at the hinge of these two contradictory worlds. Her warlike appearance (Roman-style breastplate, lion's mane), her dynamic posture and the arrows of her saber show that she has just pacified the region on the left and that she is preparing to conquer the one on the right, in the center of which is a castle, symbol of feudalism.

The attribute of the pike surmounted by the hat seems to identify this figure with Liberty. However, his tricolor scarf could just as well designate the French Nation guaranteeing Liberty through the love of the Fatherland (shield in the shape of a flaming heart). In addition, an allusion to the contemporary Dutch context is introduced by the substitution of the black and round hat - symbol of the Patriots of Holland - for the traditional cap on the pike. The acclimatization of the Freedom-Nation to a hollowing naturalistic landscape, in the manner of Ruysdaël or Hobbema, shows this influence and shows that the allegory must satisfy the eye as much as the mind.

The narrative arrangement of Valentine's allegory on the Declaration of the Rights of Man is appropriate for the didactic function of the image: it is that of an uplifting genre scene. Turning their backs to the spectator, the personifications of the four continents are kneeling in front of France. By their action as well as by their position of foils, they indicate to the viewer the peacemaking role of the Revolution, which placed France under the protection of Liberty and delivered to it the Tables of a new and universal Law. Unlike Colinart's painting, Liberty and Nation are here dissociated; they are inscribed in a walkable space that they are not intended to walk: one is frozen by its status as a statue on its pedestal, the other by its posture seated on its throne. In short, Valentin proposes a middle ground between the narrative allegory of Colinart and that, strictly iconic, of Nanine Vallain.

The Freedom de Nanine Vallain was enthroned in the meeting room of the Jacobins club. Free from narration and loaded with symbols, it comes under the most elementary allegorical conception. Dressed in the antique style, in her left hand she holds the pike surmounted by the cap and in her right hand the Declaration of Human Rights, whose unrolled leaves are superimposed in a cross beam at a club - union and strength. The foot of the allegory treads a broken chain, near which are two symbols of the fallen regime: the overturned crown and the mutilated feudal registers. Two dates are hammered on the cut stone which serves as the foundation for Liberty: July 14th and August 10. On this same base is an autographed funeral urn To our brothers who died for her. At its base grows an ivy, a sign of the fidelity which attaches to Liberty, and nearby grows the laurel which gives to his martyrs the crowns of glory. The deity is plastically inscribed on a pyramid, because coming from the depths of the ages it is promised to eternity.


From the Revolution of 1789 to the end of the Terror (July 1794), the allegory of Liberty went from a narrative conception inherited from the humanist tradition to an iconic figuration. It shed the amenities of art as its religious dimension increased: a product of Jacobin ideology, the Freedom de Vallain is no longer doomed to delight (like Colinart's) or edify (like Valentin's). She has become the icon of the revolutionary cult that the Convention has endeavored to impose on the people in order to counter the harmful effects of de-Christianization. Her birth was marked by a ceremony celebrated in the metropolitan church of Paris (former Notre-Dame cathedral) on November 10, 1793, during which the hymn that Joseph-Marie Chenier dedicated to her was sung: “You, holy Liberty, come and live in this temple, be the goddess of the French ”.

But the feast of Liberty also marked the end of the reign of Liberty. After September 1792, she gave way to the Republic, to which she lent her features and attributes. As for the revolutionary cult, it has become that of Reason and the Supreme Being.

  • allegory
  • human rights
  • Republic
  • Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen
  • Freedom


Maurice AGULHONMarianne in combat. Republican imagery and symbolism from 1789 to 1880Paris, Flammarion, 1979.Philippe BORDES and Alain CHEVALIER, Catalog of paintings, sculptures and drawings. Museum of the French RevolutionVizille, 1996.Ernst GOMBRICH "The Dream of Reason: the symbolism of the French Revolution" Revue FMR, VI, n ° 21, 1989, p. 1-24.Annie JOURDAN "The revolutionary allegory of freedom to the republic"Eighteenth century, n ° 27, 1995, p. 503-532 Jules RENOUVIERHistory of art during the RevolutionParis, Renouard, 1863.

To cite this article

Mehdi KORCHANE, "Freedom"

Video: Dan Balan - Не Любя


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