Title: Liberty Leading the People.
Author : DELACROIX Eugène (1798 - 1863)
Creation date : 1830
Date shown: July 1830
Dimensions: Height 260 - Width 325
Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas
Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski
Picture reference: 12-586016 / RF 129
Liberty Leading the People.
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski
Publication date: September 2020
Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix
Historical contextCharles X
and his unpopular minister, Prince de Polignac, questioned the achievements of the Revolution. The liberal opposition, through the newspaper The National, prepares for his replacement by the dukeLouis-Philippe of Orleans
At the session of the House on March 2, 1830, Charles X threatened to crack down. The deputies, by the "address of the 221", refuse to cooperate. The king signs and publishes in The monitor four ordinances aimed at suppressing freedom of the press and modifying the electoral law. In three days called “Three Glorious Days” - July 27, 28 and 29 -,
Completed in December, the painting was exhibited at the Salon of May 1831. It seems to have sprung from a single impulse. But it stems from studies made for Philhellenist works and from a new search for details and attitudes.
This is the final assault. The crowd converges on the spectator, in a cloud of dust, brandishing weapons. She crosses thebarricades
and bursts into the opposing camp. At its head, four standing figures, in the center a woman. Mythical goddess, she leads them to Freedom. At their feet lie soldiers.
The action rises in a pyramid, in two planes: horizontal figures at the base and vertical, a close-up protruding from the blurred background. The image becomes a monument. The strong touch and the impetuous rhythm are contained, balanced.
Delacroix brings together accessories and symbols, history and fiction, reality and allegory.
She replaces d'Arcole. New vision of the allegory of Liberty, it is a daughter of the people, alive and fiery, who embodies revolt and victory. Wearing a Phrygian cap, the locks floating on the back of the neck, she evokes the revolution of 1789, the sans-culottes and the sovereignty of the people. The flag, symbol of struggle, making one with his right arm, unfolds undulating backwards, blue, white, red. From dark to bright, like a flame.
The hairiness of his armpit was considered vulgar, the skin to be smooth in the eyes of the rhetoricians of painting.
Her yellow coat, with a double belt fluttering in the wind, slips below the breasts and is reminiscent of ancient drapes. The nudity is erotic realism and is associated with Winged Victories. The profile is Greek, the nose straight, the mouth generous, the chin delicate, the glance of embers. An exceptional woman among men, determined and noble, with her head turned towards them, she leads them towards final victory. The streamlined body is illuminated on the right. Its dark right flank stands out against a plume of smoke. Leaning on her bare left foot that protrudes from her dress, the heat of the action transfigures her. Allegory is the real protagonist of the fight. The rifle she holds in her left hand, model 1816, makes her real, current and modern.
The kids of Paris
They spontaneously engaged in the fight. One of them, on the left, clinging to the cobblestones, his eyes dilated, wears the police cap of the voltigeurs of the guard.
To the right, in front of Liberty, is a boy. Symbol of youth revolted by injustice and of sacrifice for noble causes, he evokes, with his student's black velvet beret, the character of Gavroche that we will discover in Wretched thirty years later. With his bag, too large, slung over his shoulder, cavalry pistols in his hands, he advances in front, right foot forward, arm raised, a war cry in his mouth. He urges the insurgents to fight.
The man in the beret
He wears the white cockade of the monarchists and the red ribbon bow of the liberals. He is a worker with a saber-carrying banner and an infantry elite company saber, model 1816, or lighter. The suit - apron and decked pants - is that of a manufacturer.
The scarf which holds his pistol on his stomach evokes the handkerchief of Cholet, a rallying sign of Charette and the Vendeans.
The man in the top hat, on his knees
Is he a bourgeois or a fashionable city dweller? The wide pants and the red flannel belt are those of a craftsman. The weapon, a blunderbuss with two parallel barrels, is a hunting weapon. Does he look like Delacroix or one of his friends?
The man with the scarf tied on his head
With his blue blouse and his red peasant flannel belt, he was temporarily employed in Paris. He's bleeding on the pavement. He stands up at the sight of Liberty. The blue waistcoat, red scarf and shirt match the colors of the flag. This echo is a feat.
In the foreground, on the left, the corpse of a man stripped of his pants, arms outstretched and tunic rolled up. He is, along with Liberty, the second mythical figure drawn from a workshop academy, after the antique, called Hector, Homer's hero, heroic and real.
On the right, on the back, the corpse of a Swiss, in campaign clothes: gray-blue hood, red decoration on the collar, white gaiters, low shoes, shako on the ground.
The other, face down, has the white epaulet of a cuirassier.
In the background, the students, including the polytechnician in the Bonapartist bicorne, and a detachment of grenadiers in campaign clothes and gray hoods.
The towers of Notre-Dame, symbol of freedom and romanticism as with Victor Hugo, set the action in Paris. Their orientation on the left bank of the Seine is inaccurate. The houses between the cathedral and the Seine are imaginary.
The barricades, symbols of combat, differentiate the levels in the foreground on the right. The cathedral appears far and small compared to the figures.
The light of the setting sun mingles with the smoke of the cannons. Revealing the baroque movement of bodies, it bursts in the far right and serves as an aura for Liberty, the kid and the flag.
The color unifies the picture. The blues, whites and reds have counterpoints. The parallel shoulder straps of white buffalo look match the white of the gaiters and the shirt of the corpse on the left. The gray tone exalts the red of the banner.
The painting glorifies the "noble, beautiful and great" citizen people. Historical and political, it bears witness to the last outburst of the Ancien Régime and symbolizes Liberty andpictorial revolution
Realistic and innovative, the painting was rejected by critics, accustomed to seeing the real celebrated by concepts. The Louis-Philippe regime, whose advent she welcomed, hid it from the public.
She entered the Musée du Luxembourg in 1863 and in 1874 the Louvre. Image of romantic and revolutionary enthusiasm, continuing the historical painting of the XVIIIe century and aheadGuernica
of Picasso, it is universal.
- tricolour flag
- revolutionary days
- July Monarchy
- Notre Dame de Paris
- Revolution of 1830
- Three Glorious
- Louis Philippe
Jean-Louis BORY, The July Revolution (July 29, 1830), Paris, Gallimard, coll. "The Thirty Days which made France", 1972.
François FURET, The Revolution 1770-1880, Paris, Hachette, 1988, reed. coll. "Plural", 1992.
Barthélemy JOBERT, Delacroix, Paris, Gallimard, 1997.
Hélène TOUSSAINT, Liberty Leading the People. Louvre Department files, No. 26, NMR, 1982.
Philippe VIGIER, "Paris Barricades (1830-1968)", Collections of history, no 9, October 2000.
To cite this article
Malika DORBANI-BOUABDELLAH, " Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix "