Anyone who reads my blog or who knows me at all will know how much I love France. I’ve spent many, many happy holidays there and plan to move there permanently. I don’t want to sound overly emotional but I am being completely genuine when I say that the French people I have met have been, without exception, welcoming, friendly and warm. They really do have a fabulous attitude to life and to living that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.
My WIP is partially based in Paris and the great French artist Eugene Delacroix features. I have spent a great deal of time researching Paris, reading about its history, its culture, its people. And I have been planning a trip – it is a city I have always wanted to visit, but have only passed through (usually accidently when the satnav goes wonky).
Delacroix painted ‘Liberty Leading the People’ in 1830. It has often been seen as a painting commemorating the French Revolution of the late eighteenth century. However, the scene he painted actually relates to what took place on July 28th, 1830.
After the revolution and the subsequent rise of Napoleon and the Napoleonic wars, the Bourbons were restored to the throne,with the brother of the executed King Louis XVI becoming king. Charles X became king in 1824 and he immediately set about undoing the work of the revolution. In July 1830, among other measures, he abolished freedom of the press. This lead to a virtually bloodless revolution; resistance to the king spread quickly and civil war broke out, people refused to work, and crowds gathered shouting ‘Down with the king’. The king tried to solve things by abdicating and making his grandson king. The Chamber of Deputies refused to accept this and the king went into exile.
Delacroix’s painting symbolises this moment – when anything seemed possible.
It has been used as an image for that first revolution – but that, to me, doesn’t matter. What matters to me is the values it represents. The will of the people. Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity). Liberty, of course, is the symbol of the French Republic, also known as Marianne.
I don’t feel qualified to comment on the events of last Friday, nor do I feel it is my place to do so. But this painting by Mathilde Adorno, using Delacroix’s famous image, says it all for me. Marianne is as apt a symbol today as she was when Delacroix painted her in 1830.