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L’Histoire de France expliquée par la peinture

Guillaume Picon

How do Populist candidates, with mind boggling programs – of which they hardly apply any elements to their personal itinerary – manage to enrapture the public? Why do nations, tired of the status quo, decide to throw themselves into the unknown like into a smokescreen? As often noted before, History is peopled by examples we could learn a lot from. But unless it is taught by the stars on the TV screen, History is no longer fashionable nor does it interest anyone. Some ten years ago a survey in the Daily Telegraph showed how one out of ten children thought Hitler was the trainer of the national German football team. The situation has surely not gotten any better. In this case certain vademecum are more than welcome, such as this book which deciphers paintings from the history of art. One can be interested in the crowned heads, and study the entrance of Charles VIII into Naples by Féron or battles and sieges, like the one of La Rochelle in 1627-28 by Motte. Or choose diplomacy with the reception of the ambassadors to Siam by Gérôme. This will help us see visible transformations – and the substantive issues that never change. Or one can follow a current tendency and analyze the way the right to vote and enthronements evolved, and note that progress sometimes gives strange results. What did the deputies ask for at the Jeu de paume on 20 June 1789? What luxury surrounded the Coronation of Napoleon on 2 December 1804? What was the role of Lamartine in favor of universal suffrage on the steps of the Hôtel de Ville on 25 February 1848? A good painting is sometimes worth a thousand words.

L’Histoire de France expliquée par la peinture, by Guillaume Picon, Larousse, 2016, 224 p., €25.

L’Histoire de France expliquée par la peinture - Guillaume Picon

Review published in the newsletter #449 - from 17 November 2016 to 23 November 2016

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