Thursday, June 14, 2007

Am I becoming a Francophile? Don't tell the Brits.

I was delighted to find an adorably morose postcard waiting for me at home last month, after Garth's visit to Brussels. You know you've got good people on your side, when someone picks out Jaques Louis David's "Death of Jean-Paul Marat" as the picture on which to tell you how he finds the difference between Brussels and Amsterdam to be similar to San Francisco versus New York: "Amsterdam, like NY has become a tourist-attraction-immitation of itself, but still has the culture to make it worthwhile." Nothing says culture like a dead french doctor/journalist/revolutionary murdered in his bathtub by a floppy hat-wearing woman.

But, thinking back to Charlotte Corday and her hat that started quite a fashion trend in 1790's Europe, I realized how long it's been since I spent time pondering the French Revolution, which was a pretty regular pasttime for me in high school. Now, since falling in love with "Marie Antoinette", not only have I begun to (finally) start gaining an appreciation for my German heritage via the Hapsburgs and their Austro-Hungarian empire, but I have a whole different perspective on what happened before the Reign of Terror. I mean, not that anyone views the Jacobins or Girondists as inncoent freedom fighters, but I just can't join them in demonizing the monarchy that was. It's not like Louis XVI had anything to do with ruling the country anyway.

Now when I hear the word Versailles, I get a little giddy. So what does this mean for my old friends the Anglo-Saxons? Will I stop memorizing the dates and names of all the Plantagenet, Lancaster and Tudor monarchs? No, I think it just means that France was a lot more interesting in the 18th century than England was.

What's your favorite historical regime change?


Garth said...

1. To clarify, "Death of Marat" hangs in the Musee Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, not in Amsterdam.

2. My favorite historical regime change is the Russian Revolution. I mean it's hard to match it for plot twists or for the degree to which it transformed society at all levels or for the volatile combination of radical idealism and utter ruthlessness on the part of the victors.

Kj said...

1. didn't mean to imply Marat was in Brussels, so good clarification.
2. ooh baby I love the Romanovs!

Sarah said...

I saw the movie About Schmidt with Jack Nicholson starring a couple years back when it was in the theaters. Mostly what I remember about the movie was Nicholson's labored breathing into the camera, and a rather blubbery Kathy Bates in the hot tub. But there was a tantalizing moment when he made a reference to this painting. Jack Nicholson was sitting in his bathtub fighting a bout of gloom with a limp arm on the floor. The lighting was so perfect and the drapery and everything, but it was just for a split second. I laughed out loud much to my surprise and the rest of the theater remained silent.

Kj said...

That is sooooo true. I've watched that movie like 12 times and have never connected those really obvious dots of him in the bathtub. You are my hero Sarah!