October 09, 2010

Equality leading the people

Eugene Delacroix, Liberty leading the people, 1830

Last night I was reading a little bit of Théophile Thoré's review of the 1848 Salon exhibition. The year 1848 was a very important year in European history. It was the year that Marx's Communist Manifesto was published, and the year that socialist revolutions broke out all over Europe. Thoré was commenting on the contemporary political sentiment and fervor, and implied that similar political fervor is found in Liberty Leading the People (a painting by Delacroix that was made earlier, around the time of the national French revolution in 1830). Thoré wrote, "It is said that [Delacroix] has just begun an Equality Leading the People, for our recent revolution is the true sister of that national one to which he paid homage eighteen years ago. . . . One can only hope that Delacroix makes haste, and that both paintings will soon be on display, hanging side by side."1

From what I can tell, Delacroix never made Equality Leading the People, and Thoré may have been discussing only hearsay. Nonetheless, this got me thinking. What type of figure would Delacroix have picked to represent Equality? Given the context of the 1848 socialist revolutions, I'm guessing that he would have picked some type of proletarian (member of the working class).

I think that Equality Leading the People would have contained an interesting idea that is still relevant with current issues. What if Equality Leading the People was being painted today? What figure would you pick to represent Equality? My first thought was Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks. What person (or generalized type of figure) would you choose?

(1) Théophile Thoré, "Salon of 1848" in Art in Theory: 1815-1900, edited by Charles Harrison, Paul Wood and Jason Gaiger, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, Ltd., 1998), 181.

[Originally published on Tuesday, February 16, 2010, by Alberti's Window ©]

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