Monday, August 24, 2009
Courbet, Handsome and Political
"Inasmuch as the Vendôme column is a monument devoid of all artistic value, tending to perpetuate by its expression the ideas of war and conquest of the past imperial dynasty, which are reproved by a republican nation's sentiment, citizen Courbet expresses the wish that the National Defense government will authorise him to disassemble this column."
It seemed for a moment that all that interested Courbet was Courbet, which might explain why he would take issue with a monument that celebrated Napolean. Napolean erected the column modeled after Trajans Column to celebrate the victory of Austerlitz in 1805. It is made of bronze plates taken from the cannons of the combined armies of Europe. On top sat a laurel crowned Napolean.
Courbet got involved with the Paris Commune in 1871. The commune was brought on by worker's discontent with conditions following the Franco Prussian War. A more socialist society was desired, and the Vendome Column was under attack. Courbet didn't want to destroy the column, but move it to Les Invalides, the area of Paris set aside for military history- Napolean's tomb is there.
The column was taken down, and then reassembled. Courbet was asked to pay for part of that task, and not being able to, he put himself into exile in Switzerland. This might explain why, for a man behind bars, he seems very self satisfied and content.