Sunday, April 3, 2011

Le Radeau de la Méduse


Gareth Russell on the allurements of propaganda. To quote:
Théodore Géricault chose to unveil his masterpiece in the Paris Salon of 1819 not because he was especially moved by the story of human frailty, but because he wanted to indict Louis XVIII's government for what he saw as its corruption and deceitfulness. The painting isn't really about the men lying in various extremities across a sea-tossed raft; it's about the government that put them there. The figure looming largest in Géricault's fevered imagination are not the sailors who cut the ropes binding the raft to the other lifeboats or the men who tossed their weaker colleagues into the swell. It's not even really about de Chaumareys. What Le Radeau de la Méduse is about is the restored monarchy. It's about Louis XVIII and the culpability of corruption which allegedly flowed inexorably from his ci-devant hands. And that's basically what the French Revolution is. The first time you look at it, like Le Radeau de la Méduse, it seems to be about people. It seems to be about human suffering and outrage that such conditions should exist. But look at it closer and you'll see that what it's actually about are ideas, cleverly masked behind the misery of the people it claims to be representing.
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