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Posted on May 31st, 2012, by

“Execution of Louis XVI” is a painting that perfectly depict the turbulent epoch of the French Revolution when the traditional lifestyle of French people was totally ruined and, instead, the new social order sprang out. The painting depicts the execution itself or, to put it more precisely, the painter shows the moment when the king Louis XVI has just been beheaded. The executioner’s block occupies one of the central places in the painting. In fact, it is a bit shifted to the left but still it is close to a viewer so that the audience can clearly see all the details of the execution itself.

At the same time the placement of the executioner’s block in the left part of the painting seems to be intentional since the painter probably attempted to emphasize the atmosphere that surrounded the execution. The main part of the painting is filled with the crowd of people among which it is possible to clearly distinguish soldiers which maintain the order in the square. The foreground of the painting depicts people, which are staying, sitting and lying, watching the execution eagerly. The crowd greets the execution and it is practically bursts with enjoyment when the executioner shows the head of the slaughtered monarch to the crowd.

Obviously, the joy of the crowd perfectly reveals the mood of people who were tired with the tyranny of the monarch and the old regime and the execution of Louis XVI was perceived by people like the liberation from the binds of the past. They are joyful in the expectation of the new, better life. But the presence of soldiers occupying the center of the painting is quite symbolic as well as the death of the king because it symbolizes that the new order is based on murder and military power. In such a context, the execution of the king rather resembles a kind of warning of upcoming terror than liberation of French people.

Consequently, the joyfulness of the crowd in face of the head of the dead king turns to be quite ironic since this execution was, in fact, the beginning of the epoch of bloody terror that accompanied the establishment of the new order.

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