There Will Be Blood Art of France


There Will Be Blood

Art took a dramatic turn following the French Revolution. Andrew Graham-Dixon explores artists including Jacques-Louis David, Delacroix, Ingres and Gericault.


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MUSIC: La Marseillaise

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Liberty, equality, fraternity -

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Vive la Republique!

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If ever there was a moment when history was brought to a stop

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and civilisation was reborn in a new and different shape, this was it.

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France was about to embark on the most dangerous

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and the biggest adventure in its history.

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As Charles Dickens put it, "It was the best of times,

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"it was the worst of times...

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"it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."

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The French Revolution put an end to the monarchy.

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The nobility was forced to flee the country or face death.

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The authority of the church was overthrown.

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But with the people's new sense of liberty and freedom

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came the rule of the mob

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and many innocent people went to their deaths.

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Yet a new leader emerged

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who had become the most powerful man in the world,

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the romantic hero of the age -

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Napoleon Bonaparte.

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The French Revolution would liberate France from the past

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and ignite a century of change.

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Art would be at the very epicentre of the revolution.

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Art would be on the streets, on the barricades,

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artists would record events but they would also incite events.

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Romantics and revolutionaries

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would take art to places it had never been before.

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They had set out to transform the hearts,

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the minds and the souls of the people,

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preparing mankind for a new age.

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This story begins on the eve of revolution.

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The lull before the storm.

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Paris in the 1780s...

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..a city of fine architecture and great art,

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unrivalled in Europe.

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A city of enlightenment and sophistication,

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apparently at ease with itself.

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But storm clouds were gathering.

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The country had been running out of money for decades.

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The extravagance of Louis XIV at Versailles and wars overseas

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had brought France to the verge of bankruptcy.

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The new king, Louis XVI, knew there was trouble ahead,

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but still clung to the vestiges of absolute power.

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A young and up-and-coming artist, Jacques-Louis David,

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destined to be the chronicler of his age,

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was working on two enormous paintings.

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Both had been commissioned by the king

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to preach a message to his people.

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"Know your duty and do your duty,

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"whatever the cost."

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The subject is a story from the ancient Roman past.

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Three brothers

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are making their vow of loyalty to Rome...

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..as they prepare to take three swords from their father.

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They will do battle with three of their enemies from Alba

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and the result will determine the war.

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But there is a human cost involved in this oath of violence

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against the enemy.

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And that human cost is depicted by David in this part of the painting,

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embodied in particular by this figure in white,

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swooning in grief and anticipation.

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She is the sister of those three brothers.

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And here's the twist,

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she is betrothed to one of the three men

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that they must and do, in the story, kill.

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So by enacting the vow and saving Rome,

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they make of their sister a premature widow.

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That's the nature of the choice.

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And the same opposition between honour and family,

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duty to country and duty to self

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is depicted in this even more troubling painting.

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Brutus has learned that his sons were plotting to overthrow Rome.

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He has betrayed them and they have been killed.

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This is the moment when their dead bodies are brought to him,

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feet first,

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by these men of granite, the lictors,

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with their eyes of stone.

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Look at the figure of Brutus.

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He sits in shadow. His eyes are full of remorse, anguish,

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his hand is knotted around the document

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that revealed to him their treason

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and his feet are twisted over one another.

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He is in agony but he has done his duty.

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That's what these pictures are about.

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Doing your duty, supporting the state, no matter what.

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These pictures found favour.

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This painting was commissioned by Louis XVI.

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And yet, while these paintings are not in any way revolutionary,

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I think they do show David's profound unease,

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his conflicted nature, as a person.

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He has actually found it very difficult to deliver the message

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he was supposed to deliver,

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because he places so much emphasis

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on the cost of this sacrifice of self to state.

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But if you look at the painting with a heart,

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it's hard for you to feel that it was really worth it.

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And at the very centre of the painting, its focal point,

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an emblem of the home that's been ripped apart,

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ripped apart...

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it's a basket full of sewing.

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David's pictures were so full of doubt,

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it's as if they were inviting the French people to imagine

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different endings to the stories.

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What if Brutus's sons were to live?

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And break the power of the state?

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What if swords were taken up to kill a ruler, not save him?

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In the real world, in the Paris of 1789, not the Rome of old,

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that's exactly what would happen.

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David's pictures turned out to be a premonition.

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Within weeks of Brutus going on show,

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the storming of the Bastille,

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hated symbol of Royal power,

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signalled the end of absolute monarchy.

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The end of aristocratic power,

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the end of the Catholic Church in France.

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It was the 14th of July, 1789 -

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the people suddenly were free to invent a better world.

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This was the dawn of a new age.

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The first meeting of the new revolutionary government

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took place on a royal tennis court.

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And Jacques-Louis David, who had been, at best,

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a reluctant propagandist for the King, captured the moment.

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Having joined the revolution at the first clarion call,

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he became its painter.

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And in this excitable sketch for a never-completed canvas,

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he shows Mirabeau, early leader of the insurgency,

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at the epicentre of a human earthquake.

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This time it's not just three men making an oath,

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but a thousand and this time, they're all vowing not to protect,

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but to overthrow the status quo.

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Above them, the winds of change blowing so hard,

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they make the whole ancien regime seem as fragile

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as an umbrella turned inside out by a gale.

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The first months were mayhem, but calculated mayhem.

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Across the Republic, the old royal flag with its fleur-de-lis

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was burned and a new flag raised in its place.

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The tricoleur, red, white and blue.

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There would be a new revolutionary calendar and a new architecture,

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devoted to the ideals of reason and justice.

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There is only one building in modern Paris

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where you can still breathe the fresh, clean air

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of the French Revolution in its first and most idealistic phase

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and this is it. The Pantheon. Le Pantheon.

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It wasn't actually built

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during the revolution, but shortly before,

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and the revolutionaries had this brilliant idea of taking it over

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and turning it from a church,

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which it had been meant to be, into a new kind of building,

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a secular space intended to celebrate

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not God, not the kings of France,

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not the saints, but the free ideas of free men.

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So they stripped the whole place of religious images, religious symbols,

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symbols of the monarchy.

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They blocked in all of the lower windows

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to create this sepulchral gloom,

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and they turned it into a temple

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to a new phase in the human spirit.

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To the crypt of the Pantheon,

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the bodies of those who died for the cause,

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heroes of revolution, were brought for a solemn burial.

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And alongside those martyrs were placed the prophets.

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The remains of men such as Voltaire, atheist,

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playwright and philosopher of the Enlightenment,

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revered by the revolutionaries, were dug up and reinterred here.

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Opposite Voltaire,

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the freethinker and political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau,

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brought to his last resting place in a carved wooden box

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as homely as a travelling gypsy caravan.

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This is one of my very favourite objects

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to have survived from the French Revolution.

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I see it as a masterpiece of revolutionary folk art,

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if you will. It's got this beautiful hand carrying the torch of truth

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and passing it on, even from the grave, to future generations.

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If you come round here...

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..you can see even more of...

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..the homely splendour of this wonderful thing -

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his tomb is being blessed by the seasons.

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They are bringing the bounty of nature and laying it on his grave.

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Over here, we've got a woman symbolising, I think,

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the muse of motherhood.

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Rousseau had written time and again about the nobility,

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the holiness of the child and I think this was something that really

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struck a chord with the revolutionaries

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because everyone in the revolution was a kind of child,

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living in a brave new dawn.

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These beautiful mourning human faces.

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It's such a wonderful thing and most eloquent of all,

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look at this little detail here.

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The handles that were used to carry this thing, into the Pantheon.

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It is very important to realise that things like this were originally

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carnival floats as well as tombs,

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they were part of huge, elaborate,

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public celebrations of the values of the revolution.

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David, the great pageant master of revolution,

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understood the French people well.

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With the abolition of the church, they had lost their saints,

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they had lost their heaven.

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The processions that he orchestrated

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gave them new saints and a new holy place,

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the Pantheon, to which they might make pilgrimage.

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But while revolution is inspiring, it is also unstable,

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and the French Revolution quickly splintered into factions.

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David was on the extremist wing

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and now he voted for taking revolution

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to the point of no return, the execution of the King.

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On the 21st of January, 1793,

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Louis XVI was executed by guillotine in the Place De La Revolution.

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The blood that dripped from Louis' head

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onto the faces of a frenzied crowd

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would soon turn into a river.

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This was the time known as the Terror,

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when the guillotine was busy every day.

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Hundreds of people, many of whom had supported the revolution

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in its early days, went to their deaths,

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often on the flimsiest of evidence.

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The French Revolution was the first triumphant people's revolt

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in the history of the western world.

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And it established the first great rule of every revolution to come.

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All revolutions eat their children.

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At the Musee Grevin, Paris's answer to Madame Tussauds,

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they still remember one event

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that marked the moment when the dream finally turned sour -

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the killing of one revolutionary by another.

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All the more shocking because the killer was a woman.

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Charlotte Corday's victim, Jean-Paul Marat,

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was a vengeful extremist who had incited mass murder

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on the streets of Paris.

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David has taken...

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this scene, a tawdry assassination

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of an unpleasant man

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and turned it into an image for all history.

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A bloodthirsty man sitting in his bath in his apartment

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is murdered by a young woman who can't bear the tyranny

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that he's perpetuating.

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Marat, let's face it, was a nasty piece of work,

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a tyrant who took pleasure in signing death warrants by the score.

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He loved the blood of the Terror. He was the voice of the Terror.

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Physically, too, he was repulsive.

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He suffered from what contemporaries called une lepre,

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a form of leprosy which meant he had to immerse himself in his bath

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pretty much the whole day long.

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His head he wrapped in a turban soaked in vinegar.

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David takes the details, he takes this scene,

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and he's turned Marat himself into a new Jesus Christ.

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Look at that right arm dangling so heavily from the side of the bath,

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holding the quill pen which it's about to release.

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That right arm is borrowed directly

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from perhaps the most famous image of Christ in the Renaissance world.

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Michelangelo's Pieta in the Vatican in Rome.

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The wound Charlotte Corday inflicted on Marat, that, too,

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has given David an opportunity to apotheosise Marat

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as another Christ, because here it evokes, of course,

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the image in Christ's side,

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pierced by the soldier, with his spear.

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And there's one last detail borrowed, I think,

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from Caravaggio's Martyrdom of St Matthew,

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in which the saint bleeds to death

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into a baptismal pool,

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but the notion behind it all is the same.

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Here's a martyr, a saint.

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He is going to the revolutionary equivalent of heaven.

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But the killing went on.

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On the 16th of October, 1793,

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David outlined the grimmest royal portrait in history,

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as the Queen, Marie Antoinette, haggard, dishevelled as a tramp,

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passed by his window on her way to the guillotine.

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France was beginning to feel like hell on earth.

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For 13 months, the Terror raged.

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More innocent people went to their deaths.

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The Place de la Revolution was now so soaked in human blood,

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stray dogs came from far and wide to lap it up.

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There were rumours of abused bodies and cannibalism.

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During this terrible time, David painted portraits

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as well as propaganda,

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and these apparently innocent paintings

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are perhaps his most chilling of all.

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This is his friend Madame Trudaine,

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dressed in plain clothes and wearing no jewellery,

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shown in a bare room so that no-one might suspect her

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of wealth or nobility.

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But what fear there is in her eyes,

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and behind the fear an unspoken question -

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will it never end, this terror?

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And it did. And among the first victims of its end

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was the painter himself, Jacques-Louis David,

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thrown into prison.

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He painted this self-portrait, his life hanging in the balance.

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He'd be reprieved, but only just,

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and he'd never be quite the same man again.

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As David fell, so, too, the hardliners fell from power.

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And a new age of change was to dawn in France.

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Seldom has history timed the arrival of one man to such effect.

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A man who would harness the fury of the mob to take France

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on a great imperial adventure.

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The Musee de l'Armee in Paris is a latter-day shrine

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to Napoleon Bonaparte,

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whose monstrous ego and genius would intoxicate a nation.

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He also established the second great rule of revolution -

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turn its energies outwards, find enemies elsewhere to fight.

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'Museum conservator Gregory Spourdos has the delicate task

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'of looking after the great man's relics.'

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After you.

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That's the most famous silhouette in the world, I think.

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You're touching Napoleon's hat!

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Wow. I can feel the power.

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I can feel the power surging through my veins.

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It's an incredible thing.

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Wow.

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Oh, wow. That's amazing.

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What's the... the clock?

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Ah, OK.

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We must synchronise our watches.

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On doit synchroniser ses montres. Oui, tout a fait. Tout a fait.

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That's Napoleon... That's quite a watch.

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'Napoleon certainly didn't waste time.'

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By 1797, just three years after the end of the Terror,

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his armies had conquered more territory

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than all the armies of Louis XIV.

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And wherever he went, he took possession of art

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and objects of antiquity in vast quantities.

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Venice lost its most prized possessions -

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the bronze horses of San Marco.

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They were brought back to Paris

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and paraded in a show of booty that lasted two days.

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This was Napoleon's answer to the pageantry of revolution.

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But these weren't processions to honour the dead

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like Rousseau or Voltaire. These were the triumphs of a new Caesar,

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bringing the riches of the world to his new Imperium.

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To Napoleon, these weren't merely acts of pillage.

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He justified his Project Art Theft as the liberation of art,

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freeing it from the tyranny of the past

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and the obfuscation of religion.

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And he brought everything back to the Louvre,

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which characteristically he renamed the Musee Napoleon.

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And, of course, the prize exhibit was to be himself.

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David painted this heroic, monumental portrait of Napoleon

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in 1801, to commemorate one of his most heroic feats,

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crossing the Alps with his army,

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just as Hannibal had done in the days of ancient Rome.

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He sits astride this fiery, spirited steed,

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urging his army onwards,

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his cape fluttering in the sky.

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It's a glacial Alpine landscape.

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There are some wonderful details down below.

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You can see between the fluttering strands of the horse's tail,

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this little blurred face.

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Here, a soldier,

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pushing a vast piece of artillery up the mountain and on they go.

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But the focus is right in the middle, Napoleon.

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And he's been rendered almost as if he were a monumental equestrian

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statue, frozen for ever.

0:25:250:25:28

The horse symbolises the unruly energies of the people.

0:25:290:25:34

And the ruler who holds the reins of the horse,

0:25:340:25:37

who controls the horse even as the horse rears up,

0:25:370:25:41

is almighty, powerful.

0:25:410:25:44

He is totally in control of his nation.

0:25:440:25:48

How do you understand a man like Napoleon?

0:25:560:25:59

Perhaps the best way is through his obsessions.

0:25:590:26:02

And here, in the library of the Sorbonne,

0:26:020:26:05

they still keep a monument to Napoleon's

0:26:050:26:07

greatest obsession of all.

0:26:070:26:08

He was fascinated by ancient Egypt.

0:26:100:26:13

The power and the mystery of the Pharaohs, builders of the pyramids.

0:26:130:26:16

Not only did he invade Egypt,

0:26:190:26:22

he took with him a second army of artists and archaeologists

0:26:220:26:26

to record its every temple.

0:26:260:26:28

It's as if he wanted to capture the magic and power

0:26:280:26:31

of the Pharaohs and make it his own.

0:26:310:26:33

Their work would result in an academic publication

0:26:360:26:39

that's had a profound influence on the Western world.

0:26:390:26:42

Wow.

0:26:490:26:50

That's fantastic.

0:26:500:26:52

So, this is the frontispiece.

0:26:520:26:54

This is volume one.

0:26:540:26:55

This is where everything begins.

0:26:570:26:59

C'est formidable. And I understand...

0:27:000:27:03

Oui, oui, oui.

0:27:250:27:27

It's fantastic. I wasn't expecting it in colour.

0:27:330:27:37

It's amazingly thorough. Comment ca se dit en francais?

0:27:370:27:40

Look, there's a chap here coming.

0:27:570:27:59

A French artist.

0:27:590:28:00

He's going in to make his drawings.

0:28:000:28:03

But in the distance there is a French soldier.

0:28:030:28:05

You've got the two sides of the Egyptian campaign, here.

0:28:050:28:08

You've got a soldier, French soldier, in the distance,

0:28:080:28:10

keeping an eye on things.

0:28:100:28:12

And here in the foreground you've got the artist

0:28:120:28:14

trudging towards the ruins, that he's going to spend all day drawing.

0:28:140:28:18

So that they can be reproduced here.

0:28:180:28:20

It was all very well accumulating the great works of past empires,

0:28:570:29:01

but who was going to create lasting monuments

0:29:010:29:04

to Napoleon and his empire?

0:29:040:29:06

He asked David to travel with him to Egypt...

0:29:070:29:10

..but David said he was too old for adventures

0:29:110:29:15

and recommended his young pupil, Antoine Gros.

0:29:150:29:18

Gros had already proved himself a few years earlier,

0:29:200:29:23

depicting Napoleon as a dashing young soldier

0:29:230:29:26

during the wars in Italy.

0:29:260:29:28

So Napoleon asked Gros to come on the Egyptian campaign,

0:29:280:29:33

and the resulting picture

0:29:330:29:34

still hangs in the Louvre today.

0:29:340:29:36

Napoleon's instructions to his painter were very clear -

0:29:450:29:48

create propaganda for me.

0:29:480:29:50

Glorify me.

0:29:500:29:52

Make the French people feel the triumph of my campaigns.

0:29:520:29:57

Whether Antoine Gros succeeded in the case of this painting,

0:29:580:30:02

I leave it to you to judge.

0:30:020:30:05

Napoleon's at the centre and he's been given, by his painter,

0:30:080:30:14

the old powers once ascribed to the King.

0:30:140:30:17

He has the King's touch,

0:30:180:30:20

the ability to cure those who suffer from any malady.

0:30:200:30:24

Gros has made us think, very intentionally, I believe,

0:30:250:30:29

of Jesus Christ raising Lazarus from the dead.

0:30:290:30:34

But there are other elements in the picture,

0:30:350:30:38

elements that suggest that Gros himself

0:30:380:30:42

was unable ultimately to deliver

0:30:420:30:44

the resounding propaganda painting that Napoleon wanted.

0:30:440:30:48

Look, for example, at this whole left-hand area of the painting.

0:30:480:30:53

A vision of hell.

0:30:540:30:56

The grisly detail.

0:30:570:30:59

The soldier who's been blinded by trachoma,

0:31:000:31:03

the bane of the Egyptian campaign.

0:31:030:31:07

The naked soldier erupting with evil boils.

0:31:070:31:11

Look at his armpit.

0:31:110:31:13

But above all, look at his scale.

0:31:140:31:16

If he were to stand up, he'd be ten feet tall.

0:31:180:31:22

So, yes, we've got the image of Napoleon, blessing and saving,

0:31:240:31:29

but it's dwarfed by the image of misery and suffering.

0:31:290:31:34

Gros tried so hard to paint war as something glorious...

0:31:350:31:40

..but he just couldn't.

0:31:410:31:42

In 1804, Notre Dame in Paris played host

0:31:500:31:53

to one of the most extraordinary coronations of the modern age.

0:31:530:31:57

Extraordinary because Napoleon actually crowned himself

0:31:590:32:03

and his consort Josephine.

0:32:030:32:05

The Pope, looking on,

0:32:050:32:08

stunned by the gilded hubris of it all.

0:32:080:32:10

At the French Senate, in the old Palais du Luxembourg,

0:32:140:32:18

there's still more than a flavour of Napoleon's new imperial style.

0:32:180:32:23

He'd become the most powerful man in history

0:32:230:32:26

and he wanted everyone to know about it.

0:32:260:32:28

Wow.

0:32:350:32:37

Wow.

0:32:370:32:38

So, here I am. They've let me into the French equivalent

0:32:400:32:44

of the House of Lords. I'm in search of one of Napoleon's great relics.

0:32:440:32:49

This interior is, of course, Second Empire, mid-19th century, but boy,

0:32:490:32:54

does it speak of the spirit of Napoleon.

0:32:540:32:56

Boy, does it make you think, the French are so good at pomp.

0:32:560:33:00

They're really good at it.

0:33:000:33:02

No-one does pomp and grandeur better than the French.

0:33:020:33:06

And here we are!

0:33:060:33:08

Here it is.

0:33:080:33:10

Here's the great relic.

0:33:100:33:11

It's Napoleon's own throne.

0:33:130:33:17

And it was built for him,

0:33:170:33:19

made for him, by a man called Jacob-Desmalter.

0:33:190:33:24

And it's just this wonderful...

0:33:240:33:27

Look at it, look at this embroidery, the N that we see forever.

0:33:270:33:32

Just the feeling of luxury.

0:33:320:33:34

The bumblebee,

0:33:370:33:38

a symbol that Napoleon loved for his France

0:33:380:33:41

because it stood for industry, hard work.

0:33:410:33:43

These sphinxes or griffins, which meant to place Napoleon,

0:33:460:33:51

who loved to borrow symbols and images of power,

0:33:510:33:55

this time sitting on this throne, he's actually a pharaoh.

0:33:550:34:00

There's something, it has to be said, faintly tawdry about it all.

0:34:020:34:07

It's a little bit Wizard of Oz.

0:34:070:34:10

And it reminds me a little bit of something Voltaire once said.

0:34:130:34:18

He said, "No matter how great the King or how proud the Emperor,

0:34:200:34:24

"no matter how splendid his throne,

0:34:250:34:27

"he's really only ever sat on his own bum".

0:34:270:34:31

If Napoleon had an Achilles heel, it was belief in his own invincibility.

0:34:370:34:44

No-one saw that more clearly than a brilliant young painter

0:34:440:34:47

called Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

0:34:470:34:50

Attracted and repulsed by Napoleon

0:34:500:34:52

at one and the same time,

0:34:520:34:54

Ingres produced one of the most alarming portraits in history.

0:34:540:34:57

I personally find it almost terrifying.

0:35:070:35:09

Many great paintings invite you in,

0:35:090:35:12

but I never want to get much closer than this.

0:35:120:35:15

I find it revealing that they keep it behind glass.

0:35:150:35:18

It's almost as if you're in the reptile house...

0:35:180:35:22

..looking at a very dangerous animal.

0:35:240:35:26

And there's this fear that somehow it might leap out and bite you.

0:35:260:35:31

Ingres borrowed as many images for this painting as Napoleon borrowed

0:35:310:35:37

symbols for himself.

0:35:370:35:38

They're all there. If you start at the bottom,

0:35:380:35:41

the Carolingian Eagle, emblem of power.

0:35:410:35:44

Move up. On the left-hand side,

0:35:450:35:48

he holds the sceptre of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

0:35:480:35:54

To the other side, the hand of justice, of Charlemagne.

0:35:540:35:58

His head is crowned with golden laurel leaves,

0:36:000:36:03

which make him a Roman emperor.

0:36:030:36:06

By his side dangles

0:36:060:36:08

the bejewelled sword of Charlemagne.

0:36:080:36:11

How many different forms of power does Napoleon seem to possess?

0:36:110:36:15

But in a sense, all those emblems are just the prelude

0:36:150:36:19

to the final crescendo

0:36:190:36:22

which arrives through its composition,

0:36:220:36:25

this hieratic frontal pose,

0:36:250:36:28

taken by Ingres from the van Eyck altarpiece painted for Ghent

0:36:280:36:32

which Napoleon had looted, which was on display in the Louvre.

0:36:320:36:35

It's a painting of God, the Father.

0:36:350:36:37

So Ingres has painted Napoleon as all the Roman emperors,

0:36:380:36:43

every French emperor, and the Christian God himself.

0:36:430:36:48

Who could be more powerful than this?

0:36:480:36:50

It's an image almost crazed in its celebration of Napoleon's power.

0:36:500:36:56

And I think perhaps for that reason,

0:36:560:36:59

perhaps because Ingres had gone so far in his youthful enthusiasm,

0:36:590:37:03

the painting didn't actually meet with the favour he hoped for.

0:37:030:37:07

One critic said it looked as though it had been painted by moonlight.

0:37:070:37:11

And so the painting was quickly forgotten.

0:37:110:37:14

Ingres pretended he'd never painted it.

0:37:140:37:17

It languished in store rooms and eventually wound up here

0:37:170:37:20

in a neglected corner of the Musee de l'Armee.

0:37:200:37:23

But although it was rejected, although it was despised,

0:37:250:37:29

I think the real reason for that was because it actually spoke the truth.

0:37:290:37:33

The truth, especially when it came to his own megalomania,

0:37:380:37:41

was the last thing Napoleon wanted.

0:37:410:37:44

And his luck was running out.

0:37:440:37:46

Antoine Gros was still working away at heroic propaganda,

0:37:500:37:55

but he'd witnessed one horror too many on the battlefield

0:37:550:37:58

and now he could only see premonitions of disaster.

0:37:580:38:02

In each new picture, Napoleon got smaller.

0:38:020:38:06

Here, he's stranded like a postage- stamp figure in a sea of dead men.

0:38:060:38:11

This is triumph made to look like defeat,

0:38:120:38:15

a frostbitten prophecy of worse to come -

0:38:150:38:19

the loss of virtually his whole army in the frozen wastes of Russia.

0:38:190:38:25

It's as if all Napoleon's artists

0:38:260:38:28

knew deep inside the mad adventure could only end one way.

0:38:280:38:33

And they were proved right.

0:38:330:38:35

By 1815 and all that.

0:38:350:38:39

Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, followed by his exile and death.

0:38:390:38:44

France was left bankrupt and in ruins.

0:38:440:38:47

The romantic poet Alfred de Musset

0:38:540:38:57

would call the generation after Napoleon

0:38:570:39:00

"fervent, pale and nervous."

0:39:000:39:03

The generation that had been told that each high road led

0:39:040:39:07

to a capital of Europe.

0:39:070:39:09

In their heads they had an entire world,

0:39:090:39:13

but now everything was empty.

0:39:130:39:16

And the only sound was the sound

0:39:160:39:18

of the bell tolling in the parish steeple.

0:39:180:39:21

Theirs was the generation of the fallen and the disappointed.

0:39:220:39:26

Now France had a new constitution and a new monarch,

0:39:320:39:36

in the unattractive shape of Louis XVIII.

0:39:360:39:39

No-one had faith in him, or in anything much else besides.

0:39:390:39:43

Then in 1816, events unfolded in the press

0:39:470:39:49

that seemed to capture the national malaise.

0:39:490:39:52

A naval frigate, La Meduse,

0:39:550:39:57

was wrecked off the coast of Africa

0:39:570:39:59

because of the incompetence of the French captain.

0:39:590:40:03

In a grim echo of the Terror,

0:40:050:40:07

abandoned survivors on a raft resorted to cannibalism.

0:40:070:40:11

These stomach-turning events would inspire the first great masterpiece

0:40:130:40:16

of the pale and nervous generation,

0:40:160:40:19

a work created by a young painter,

0:40:190:40:22

a fragile genius called Theodore Gericault.

0:40:220:40:26

The raft of the Medusa is one of the most compellingly ambiguous

0:40:340:40:38

monumental paintings ever created.

0:40:380:40:41

It's often said that Gericault idealised the real events

0:40:410:40:47

on which he based his picture,

0:40:470:40:51

but there are plenty of horribly realistic details,

0:40:510:40:54

for those with eyes to find them.

0:40:540:40:56

Look at the man on the left, or rather is that just half a man?

0:40:580:41:03

Look at the figure to the right falling backwards into the sea.

0:41:050:41:10

There's an axe on the raft and there's blood on the axe,

0:41:110:41:16

a reminder that those who survived did resort to cannibalism.

0:41:160:41:21

You can read it politically,

0:41:230:41:25

in which case it symbolises

0:41:250:41:28

the ship of the French state

0:41:280:41:31

mismanaged by government,

0:41:310:41:34

set adrift forever on a stormy sea,

0:41:340:41:38

yearning for certainties

0:41:380:41:41

that they've lost and will never regain.

0:41:410:41:43

You can read it as a personal statement of loss.

0:41:450:41:50

Just as he set out on the adventure of painting the picture,

0:41:500:41:55

Gericault had said goodbye forever to his mistress.

0:41:550:41:59

In which case, we would see all of those men

0:41:590:42:02

desperately reaching towards the horizon as self portraits,

0:42:020:42:06

looking for his lost love.

0:42:060:42:08

Above all, I think it is THE great image

0:42:090:42:14

of what Alfred de Musset described as this lost generation

0:42:140:42:20

after the years of Napoleon's glory,

0:42:200:42:23

condemned to wander the world...

0:42:230:42:26

..in this crepuscular, melancholic twilit period of France's decline.

0:42:280:42:36

Alas, the genius of Gericault would be extinguished all too soon,

0:42:500:42:55

dead at just 32 years old of consumption,

0:42:550:42:59

the fatal condition preordained for the pale and nervous generation.

0:42:590:43:04

Almost as soon as he's dead,

0:43:130:43:16

Gericault becomes a cult figure, a martyr,

0:43:160:43:19

marked by this extraordinary tomb monument.

0:43:200:43:24

It's as if from this point onwards,

0:43:250:43:28

France will no longer trust its leaders, its institutions

0:43:280:43:32

or the church to give it meaning.

0:43:320:43:34

It will be down to the single, creative artist.

0:43:340:43:38

As Baudelaire,

0:43:380:43:40

the great French writer who would be the spokesman for the generation

0:43:400:43:42

to follow Gericault, as he said, from now on,

0:43:420:43:46

tous, c'est moi et moi, c'est tous.

0:43:460:43:49

"Everything is me, and I am everything".

0:43:490:43:52

For its French audience,

0:43:590:44:00

Gericault's picture had been too much,

0:44:000:44:02

its depth of pathos too shocking.

0:44:020:44:05

Mankind was rendered more tragic,

0:44:070:44:10

more alone in the world than ever before.

0:44:100:44:12

A friend of Gericault's, a young painter called Eugene Delacroix,

0:44:150:44:19

said the picture propelled him into the realms of insanity

0:44:190:44:23

when he first saw it.

0:44:230:44:24

Delacroix set to work on his own versions

0:44:240:44:27

of the romantic nightmare.

0:44:270:44:29

Instead of Gericault's raft,

0:44:290:44:32

he set his figures adrift on a ship bound for hell.

0:44:320:44:35

And then came another far more disturbing work,

0:44:370:44:40

a crescendo of sex and death.

0:44:400:44:43

The perfect romantic artist,

0:44:470:44:50

the great painter of the age of "moi" was Delacroix.

0:44:500:44:55

Why? Because he could only paint them while he was an artist entirely

0:44:550:45:00

trapped in his own personal, subjective fantasies,

0:45:000:45:05

and he only had two modes.

0:45:050:45:07

One was despondency, and the other was frenzy,

0:45:070:45:13

and this is frenzy.

0:45:130:45:15

He based the picture on a half-baked play by Lord Byron

0:45:240:45:27

called Sardanapalus,

0:45:270:45:29

which tells the tale of an ancient despot of Nineveh.

0:45:290:45:34

Sardanapalus, who discovering that his city is about to be sacked,

0:45:340:45:39

orders the immolation of all his concubines,

0:45:390:45:43

the destruction of all his possessions

0:45:430:45:46

and the death of all his horses.

0:45:460:45:48

What a fantastic pretext for Delacroix,

0:45:480:45:52

a mad orgy of destruction,

0:45:520:45:55

bathed in the colour red.

0:45:550:45:57

You experience the painting as a cascade of horrible detail and this

0:45:570:46:01

really is one of the most repugnant paintings

0:46:010:46:04

ever created in the entire history of art.

0:46:040:46:07

Start from the top -

0:46:070:46:10

bound concubine, struggling concubine, collapsed concubine,

0:46:100:46:14

knifed concubine.

0:46:140:46:17

Dying horse, straining slave, trailing pile of booty.

0:46:170:46:22

Suppliant, desperate foot, limp hand, more treasure.

0:46:230:46:28

It's a kind of crazed kaleidoscope.

0:46:280:46:32

And what's its real subject, anyway?

0:46:320:46:35

Who is Sardanapalus, really?

0:46:350:46:37

This megalomaniac, this Nero figure,

0:46:380:46:43

this imperial potentate,

0:46:430:46:46

master of all he surveys.

0:46:460:46:48

Well, I think in Delacroix's imagination,

0:46:480:46:51

he's an alter ego for Napoleon.

0:46:510:46:53

Delacroix always remained obsessed

0:46:530:46:56

by the memory of Napoleon and his glory days,

0:46:560:47:00

and I think what he's really doing in this picture

0:47:000:47:03

is redesigning a more suitable death for Napoleon.

0:47:030:47:08

This is how Delacroix thinks

0:47:090:47:12

Napoleon should really have gone out, with a bang, not a whimper.

0:47:120:47:17

Delacroix's most famous painting was created three years later in 1830,

0:47:210:47:25

Liberty Leading The People,

0:47:250:47:27

commemorating the so-called July Revolution of that year.

0:47:270:47:30

MUSIC: La Marseillaise

0:47:300:47:32

It's the exception to the rest of the artist's work,

0:47:350:47:38

a rare image of hope and idealism,

0:47:380:47:40

a reminder that revolution could still seem sexy.

0:47:400:47:43

But almost before the paint was dry,

0:47:440:47:47

the uprising of 1830 had been put down,

0:47:470:47:49

the monarchy had been restored and it was business as usual in France.

0:47:490:47:54

In this age of rupture and failed ideals,

0:47:590:48:03

where could the romantic artist hope to find stability?

0:48:030:48:07

Perhaps in the world of art itself.

0:48:080:48:10

While all else crumbled,

0:48:110:48:13

art's own traditions could still be held up for veneration.

0:48:130:48:17

That was the message preached

0:48:180:48:20

at the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris,

0:48:200:48:22

where 19th-century students of painting learned their craft.

0:48:220:48:26

And it was for the school's lecture theatre

0:48:260:48:29

that Paul Delaroche painted one of the most ambitious pictures

0:48:290:48:31

of the age,

0:48:310:48:33

so huge it dwarfed even the enormous canvases of David and his followers.

0:48:330:48:39

It's called The Artists Of All Times,

0:48:430:48:47

and what it expresses is the idea

0:48:470:48:50

that art has remained a continuous conversation, from ancient Greece

0:48:500:48:55

all the way into modern Paris.

0:48:550:48:58

So at the centre we see

0:48:580:49:01

Iktinos, Phidias, Zeuxis,

0:49:010:49:04

Greek architect, Greek painter, Greek painter.

0:49:040:49:08

On this side,

0:49:080:49:10

all the masters of painting whose speciality has been drawing,

0:49:100:49:14

beginning with Poussin on the right-hand side.

0:49:140:49:17

Close to him is Leonardo da Vinci.

0:49:170:49:20

In the middle we see Michelangelo.

0:49:200:49:22

Behind is Raphael.

0:49:220:49:24

On the left-hand side, the artists who specialise in colour.

0:49:240:49:28

So there we have Titian, we have Velazquez, we have van Dyck.

0:49:280:49:33

They're all talking to each other,

0:49:330:49:34

they're all communicating one with the other,

0:49:340:49:37

the idea being that in the end we're all in it together,

0:49:370:49:40

the past feeds into the present.

0:49:400:49:42

It's a wonderful, brilliant, beautiful continuum.

0:49:420:49:47

But the great paradox behind it is

0:49:470:49:49

that Delaroche painted it in 1841 at exactly

0:49:490:49:53

the moment when French art was about to be split and divided

0:49:530:49:59

as it had never been split and divided before.

0:49:590:50:02

So, who would finally shatter the mould?

0:50:050:50:09

Shockingly, it would be a weather-beaten survivor

0:50:090:50:11

from the glory days of Napoleon.

0:50:110:50:14

None other than Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres,

0:50:140:50:17

82 years old and still up for a fight.

0:50:170:50:20

The irony was that Ingres himself

0:50:200:50:23

had taught Delaroche everything he believed.

0:50:230:50:26

Ingres himself celebrated antiquity,

0:50:260:50:29

claimed to be a spokesman for classical values...

0:50:290:50:33

..but scratch the surface and it's a different story.

0:50:350:50:38

Look at his portraits and you come face-to-face

0:50:380:50:41

with the romantic sense of self,

0:50:410:50:44

each person a solitary god in their own private world.

0:50:440:50:49

Meet Monsieur Bertin, the Buddha of the bourgeoisie...

0:50:510:50:54

..meet Madame Moitessier, the Sphinx of the 2nd Empire...

0:50:570:51:01

..but of course they're not deities, they are not immortals -

0:51:020:51:06

Ingres was telling his audience

0:51:060:51:09

that the gods of old had flown

0:51:090:51:11

and wouldn't be seen again save as ghosts, not in this plush,

0:51:110:51:15

comfortable world.

0:51:150:51:16

But, it was only when it came to paint his very last masterpiece

0:51:200:51:24

that Ingres finally let the mask slip.

0:51:240:51:27

What do we see?

0:51:320:51:34

Hundreds of naked women, combing each other's hair...

0:51:340:51:38

..spraying each other with perfume,

0:51:400:51:44

dancing, chatting, gossiping,

0:51:440:51:47

but really what an unbridled image of lust it is.

0:51:470:51:53

Ingres had spent his whole life declaring

0:51:530:51:57

that his art represented "le pur classique" - ha!

0:51:570:52:01

What is classical about that?

0:52:030:52:04

What this painting really marks

0:52:050:52:09

is the final severing of the artist who most wanted to belong

0:52:090:52:16

to the past from the past,

0:52:160:52:19

from anything resembling authority, convention, tradition.

0:52:190:52:23

He is suddenly admitting to himself

0:52:230:52:27

as a very old man that really none of that counts.

0:52:270:52:30

He doesn't actually connect to anything.

0:52:300:52:34

He has nothing to believe in except Baudelaire's "Le moi".

0:52:340:52:40

The me. And if you're just a "me", what is painting then?

0:52:400:52:45

Just the projection of your own irregularities, eccentricities,

0:52:470:52:51

passions and obsessions.

0:52:510:52:53

You're left in the orgy of your own mind.

0:52:530:52:58

And I think it's deeply significant

0:52:580:53:02

that Picasso regarded this picture

0:53:020:53:05

as one of the undoubted masterpieces of the 19th century.

0:53:050:53:09

It was the painting that marked the beginning of modern art,

0:53:090:53:13

because with this painting,

0:53:130:53:15

art declared itself forever

0:53:150:53:19

to be the creation of the individual

0:53:190:53:22

cut adrift from tradition.

0:53:220:53:25

In the world of public culture,

0:53:340:53:36

the shock waves went unnoticed at first.

0:53:360:53:39

The Palais Garnier, showpiece of the Second Empire,

0:53:440:53:46

began construction in the 1860s

0:53:460:53:48

and was nearing completion as Ingres breathed his last.

0:53:480:53:52

It's the perfect temple to official taste, a machine-made Versailles,

0:53:580:54:03

a fanfare to the power of the past,

0:54:030:54:06

complete with painted nymphs on every wall and ceiling.

0:54:060:54:11

For two centuries and more,

0:54:230:54:24

French artists had spoken the antique language

0:54:240:54:27

of Greece and Rome.

0:54:270:54:29

But by now, that language of art was in its death throes

0:54:340:54:38

or at least in its final decadence.

0:54:380:54:42

So, what would come next?

0:54:420:54:43

The greatest critic of the romantic era, Charles Baudelaire,

0:54:440:54:48

looked into his crystal ball to bury the past and predict the future.

0:54:480:54:53

During the one brief settled period of his life,

0:54:570:55:01

Baudelaire lived here in a house on the Quai d'Anjou.

0:55:010:55:04

They've marked the spot by gilding the balcony

0:55:040:55:07

from which he once overlooked the Seine.

0:55:070:55:10

It was as an art critic that Baudelaire pronounced

0:55:100:55:13

his most eloquent funeral oration.

0:55:130:55:17

"The painters of now must no longer spend their time in their studios

0:55:170:55:21

"studying plaster casts,

0:55:210:55:23

"clothing their characters in the costumes

0:55:230:55:26

"of ancient Greeks and Romans.

0:55:260:55:28

"No. The painters of now must immerse themselves

0:55:280:55:32

"in the chaos of the city,

0:55:320:55:34

"plunge into the crowd, become at once mirrors and kaleidoscopes,

0:55:340:55:40

"reflecting every fragment, every corner of modern life,

0:55:400:55:43

"no matter how base, vulgar or ugly.

0:55:430:55:46

"The painter of today must go in search of modernity."

0:55:470:55:53

France was changing.

0:55:580:56:01

Paris had grown to three times the size it had been in Napoleon's time.

0:56:010:56:05

The Industrial Revolution, late in the day compared to other countries,

0:56:050:56:09

had at last arrived.

0:56:090:56:11

The city, in all its complexity, its immorality and overcrowding,

0:56:130:56:18

would now fascinate the artist.

0:56:180:56:20

Edouard Manet would bewilder audiences

0:56:250:56:28

with his blurred brushstrokes and random crowds.

0:56:280:56:32

He would celebrate a prostitute as a modern-day Venus.

0:56:380:56:42

And he would baffle his audience

0:56:440:56:46

with the scandalous vision of naked women

0:56:460:56:49

picnicking with frock-coated gentleman

0:56:490:56:51

by the side of a stream.

0:56:510:56:54

Modern life wasn't just transient,

0:56:540:56:56

it was unfathomable, a vision of chaos.

0:56:560:56:59

Artists at the cutting edge now only had one rule -

0:57:020:57:05

keep rewriting the rules.

0:57:050:57:08

Gustave Courbet too was a great iconoclast,

0:57:080:57:11

and it was he who set the pattern for the next century and more.

0:57:110:57:15

Think the unthinkable, paint the unpaintable.

0:57:150:57:19

And if it causes a scandal, all the better.

0:57:190:57:22

To give you some idea of just how shocking Courbet could be

0:57:270:57:30

to his contemporaries,

0:57:300:57:32

I'd like you to imagine for a moment that it's 1866,

0:57:320:57:35

you're a Parisian art lover

0:57:350:57:36

and you've been invited into his studio to see

0:57:360:57:38

a painting called L'Origine du Monde, The Origin of the World.

0:57:380:57:43

What do you have in your mind?

0:57:430:57:45

Could it be a painting like this that you're going to see?

0:57:450:57:48

An idealised nude,

0:57:480:57:50

running her fingers through some perfectly pure stream of water

0:57:500:57:54

symbolising the origin of all things?

0:57:540:57:57

Or could it be a primeval landscape, such as this one?

0:57:570:58:03

Raw, savage nature?

0:58:030:58:05

Uh-uh.

0:58:060:58:08

Courbet, Courbet the blatant realist,

0:58:080:58:11

he's got something very different in mind.

0:58:110:58:15

A blatant depiction of the place,

0:58:150:58:18

literally, from which we all come.

0:58:180:58:21

Here it is. L'Origine du Monde.

0:58:210:58:25

This was Courbet's sacred truth,

0:58:290:58:32

the truth made flesh,

0:58:320:58:34

and from there it was just a short step to the birth of modern art.

0:58:340:58:39

But that's a story for next time.

0:58:400:58:43

Andrew Graham-Dixon explores how art in France took a dramatic turn following the French Revolution that ushered in a bold new world. From the execution of King Louis XVI and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte - a figure who simultaneously repelled and inspired artists of his time - through to the rise of Romanticism and an art of seduction, sex and high drama, Andrew explores artists including Jacques-Louis David - whose art appeared on the barricades and in the streets - as well as the work of Delacroix, Ingres and the tragic but brilliant Theodore Gericault.