(b. 1798, Charenton-Saint-Maurice, d. 1863, Paris)

Liberty Leading the People (28th July 1830)

Oil on canvas, 260 x 325 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Liberty Leading the People is a sort of epic narrative of the woman who quits her hearth to espouse a great cause. There is a carpet of bodies beneath her feet as she leads the ravening crowd. Her naked breasts have come to embody the social virtues of Republicanism, a point officially acknowledged by the generous diffusion of the image in the form of French stamps. It is also the first modern political composition. It marks the moment at which Romanticism abandoned its classical sources of inspiration to take up an emphatic role in contemporary life. Delacroix enrolled as a garde national, and in this role he portrayed himself, wearing a top hat, to the left of Liberty. The young drummer brandishing his pistols to the right of Liberty was, perhaps, the inspiration for the character Gavroche, in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, written thirty years later. Delacroix's influences - Goya, Gros, and, above all, Géricault - are clearly apparent.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.