Somewhere over the Rainbow
Laws Of Silence - September 9, 2011
Like everywhere else in Europe, the first half of the 19th century was an especially turbulent time for France: the First Republic (1792-1804) gave way to Napoleon’s Empire (1804-1814/15), in turn followed by the Bourbon Restoration (1814-1815–”The 100 Days”–1815-1830). The July Revolution of 1830 led to the so-called July Monarchy of the House of Orléans, which ruled until 1848. In 1848 the Second Republic was established and the year is considered as the end of France’s “revolutionary era” (The current state, btw, is no less than the Fifth Republic, proof that the turbulent times were far from over!)
In any event, to celebrate the newborn Second Republic, a competition was held to find a painting that could be displayed in town halls across the country. Between 1848 and 1849, Armand Cambon created the painting above as his entry (he didn’t win). La République is a symbol-heavy allegory and many of these Republican symbols are quite obviously also Masonic. But as I’ve said before, half-jokingly, what symbol isn’t?
According to the website for the museums of the Midi-Pyrenées, the woman is an allegory of the Republic, or perhaps the Law, crowned with a victory laurel, thus recalling the recent overthrow of the last French monarch Louis-Philippe. The flag crowned with the eagle and the lion immobilizing the serpent symbolize the Republic’s capacity for defense. The clasped hands, the square and the hand in benediction represent Equality and Justice; the beehive, Fraternity and Work. The tricolor rainbow is said to symbolize the glory of Republican government. (We’ve seen the hand before on Urbain Vitry’s tomb, 1863.)