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DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: We're in the Musee du Louvre, and we're looking at Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People." This is one of the most historically important paintings in this collection. DR. BETH HARRIS: And it's important to remember, I think, how radical this painting was. Its republican revolutionary politics were palpable, a little bit perhaps lost to us, I think, today. The painting shows the Revolution of 1830 on the streets of Paris. And what we see is a barricade, which was a makeshift blockade. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: And remember that Paris at this time was really a medieval city. And so the streets were narrow, and they were winding, and it was easy to block off French troops. And they were made of furniture. They were made of wagons. They were made especially of cobblestones. And you can see the cobblestones down in the very foreground. DR. BETH HARRIS: Over those cobblestones strides a figure who one would not have actually seen on the streets of Paris. So we have this mixture of the real and the unreal, because we have this allegorical figure of Liberty herself carrying the French tricolour flag, which represents equality, fraternity and liberty, the values of the Revolution. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: So in the United States, we would recognize this figure as the Statue of Liberty, not a specific individual, but in fact the embodiment or personification of an idea, the idea of freedom. DR. BETH HARRIS: So it's important to remember here that what's happened is a monarchy had been restored in France that was very politically oppressive. And the Revolution in July of 1830 was against that restored King Charles X and brought into power a constitutional monarchy, presumably a king that would be more friendly to the needs of the middle class. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: So there were three days of beyond protests, of open warfare in the streets of Paris. Charles X actually flees France. And his cousin, Louis Philippe, is put on the throne. And Delacroix is watching this from his window. DR. BETH HARRIS: And the violence is really frightening. We have in the foreground dead members of both sides of this fight. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: The figure on the left is really brutal. If you look closely, it's clear that he's in his night shirt. And one of the practices of the repressive government was to go after the opposition in their homes, beat them to death, and drag them into the streets as a reminder, do not do this. There's a very famous Daumier, the "Rue Transnonain," that shows a family that has been killed in their bedroom. DR. BETH HARRIS: And on the right, a member of the other side, of the king's forces, who's dead or wounded in the foreground. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: And that's important, because I think that's a reminder that even the royal troops are not invincible. DR. BETH HARRIS: Liberty strides forward. She's incredibly powerful. And importantly, Delacroix is giving her a kind of realism that was very important, I think, in terms of this message. I think if the figure had been an ancient Greek looking figure, we would have lost some of the strength of this image. We see her in profile, starkly lit with a kind of Caravaggio-esque lighting, her arm forward with the flag, the other arm carrying the bayonet, striding over the barricade. A figure that leads the people on with this idea of liberty. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: So I see exactly what you're saying, but I also disagree. Because I think that Delacroix is imbuing this figure with all of those very human attributes that you were talking about, all of that sense of leadership, and all of the allegorical power that she represents. But at the same time, I think Delacroix is actually very consciously drawing on the ancient tradition. The perfect profile, which is the most noble way of representing the face according to the classical world, reminds us of Roman coinage, for instance. DR. BETH HARRIS: So it's not as if Delacroix looked out of his window and actually saw this. And that's not just because of the allegorical figure of Liberty. The figures are carefully composed in the shape of a pyramid. And Delacroix has also included very different types of figures intentionally, showing the range of people who participated in the Revolution of 1830. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: So not only do you have the man wearing the top hat, a member of the bourgeoisie of the middle class. But next to him is a craftsman, a workman in his shirtsleeves who probably can't afford that nice rifle. But they are together opposing the monarchy. DR. BETH HARRIS: And so there was a real political message here of the power of the people to overthrow a government. And the government of Louis Philippe that came into power purchased this painting. But later, this message started to feel a little bit uncomfortable. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: A little too radical. DR. BETH HARRIS: A little too radical. And in fact, the government of Louis Philippe, although a constitutional monarchy, still only a very small fraction of the French people were able to vote. We're talking about a government that was still favorable only to the interests of real elite. And so the power of the people that we see here in this painting became dangerous. And the painting was taken down and not exhibited again until the Revolution of 1848. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: Well look, for instance, at the extreme right side of the canvas, and you can make out the two Towers of Notre Dame rising above the smoke of battle. And if you look very closely, you can see the tricolour on that symbol of the monarchy. And so this was such a radical image. DR. BETH HARRIS: Liberty is moving directly into our space, leading the people forward. You can see why this painting ended up going essentially into storage.