“A woman of the people with a Phrygian cap personifying the concept of Liberty leads a varied group of people forward over a barricade and the bodies of the fallen, holding the flag of the French Revolution – the tricolour, which again became France’s national flag after these events – in one hand and brandishing a bayonetted musket with the other. The figure of Liberty is also viewed as a symbol of France and the French Republic known as Marianne.
By the time Delacroix painted Liberty Leading the People, he was already the acknowledged leader of the Romantic school in French painting. Delacroix, who was born as the Age of Enlightenment was giving way to the ideas and style of romanticism, rejected the emphasis on precise drawing that characterised the academic art of his time, and instead gave a new prominence to freely brushed colour.
Delacroix depicted Liberty as both an allegorical goddess-figure and a robust woman of the people. The mound of corpses and wreckage acts as a kind of pedestal from which Liberty strides, barefoot and bare-breasted, out of the canvas and into the space of the viewer.
In 2012, it was moved to the new Louvre-Lens museum in Lens, Pas-de-Calais, as the starring work in the first tranche of paintings from the Louvre’s collection to be installed.”
The painting and its iconic status are discussed at the beginning of:
The Romantics and Us with Simon Schama, Series 1: 1. Passions of the People: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000mfng via @bbciplayer