Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Art as Propaganda

One of the most fascinating aspects of the French Revolution is the effect of art and literature on the minds of the people.  Jacques-Louis David's work, The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, is a good example.

The painting depicts the Roman leader, Brutus, turned from the sight of his sons' bodies, as his wife, daughters and servant grieve.  Brutus appears determined and unmoved, resolute in the belief that having ordered his sons' deaths was merited by the fact that they'd tried to overthrow the Republic and restore the Monarchy.  The end justifies the means and all that.

The piece was exhibited in the early stages of the French Revolution despite the Court's attempt to keep it from public view. Art students felt the need to stand guard at the Salon.  I wonder how many of them survived the Revolution after the fire they helped to light roared out of control.  Just wondering.

It's nearly inconceivable to me that a human being is capable of creating such a masterpiece.  The first moment I saw it, in the Louvre, is frozen in my mind. And, it's not even my favorite of David's paintings.  I never leave the museum without visiting that gallery.  Sometimes it's the only one I visit.

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