Monday, March 28, 2011

Let's talk about art

Before coming to France, there were exactly two pre-Impressionist French paintings that I could reliably identify by name. Both are shown above, and I am happy to report that we have now discussed both in class with Andre, our terrific instructor. The first is Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa, which I knew through Julian Barnes's excellent discussion in his book A History of the World in 10½ Chapters.

The second, by Delacroix, is titled Liberty Leading the People. I will now bore you with some facts about this painting, so listen up! It is a common misconception that the painting refers to events during the French Revolution of 1789; in fact, it represents a lesser-known revolt, one that lasted only 3 days, in 1830. The figure of Lady Liberty depicted in the painting is also known as Marianne, and has become synonymous with the French republic ("La Republique"). You can see a different representation of her in the picture of the statue ("La Republique") over in the right hand column. She is traditionally shown semi-naked, presumably to make it easier for the French to drink the milk of human liberty from her voluptuous breasts. Her headgear is known as a Phrygian cap, which is neither a poisonous mushroom nor a contraceptive device (these would have been my first guesses).

Also on the topic of headgear, another part of today's lesson was devoted to the character of Gavroche from Les Miserables. Because I am too lazy to look it up before dinner, the interested reader is invited to find an image of Gavroche's characteristic cap on Google. I can't do all the work here, you know.

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