Happy Bastille Day! Today marks the 227th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, a triumph that kicked off the French Revolution in Paris. While the famous quote, “let them eat cake,” probably rings a bell, read on to learn other legacies of the period and discover what Beyoncé, Bastille, and Bush have in common, asides from all starting with the letter B.


Martin van Meytens, Marie Antoinette (1767) / Beyoncé, “Diva(2008)

Image // Courtesy of Rad.co


When it comes to the greatest divas of all time, Marie Antoinette certainly makes the cut. Helping to surge the revolutionaries of 18th century France was their lack of representation, plus the fact that their lives were a stark contrast to Marie Antoinette’s, as the queen aloofly pursued a life of extreme luxury. While her famous words live on, the guillotined Queen’s image still graces a variety of mediums, too, as seen by the work above, made by Fly Art. The company is known for creating clever, hilarious combinations of art history and music lyrics and their work can be worn as well since the image has been printed onto t-shirts and tanks, all for sale at Rad.co.


Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (1830) / Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” (2008)

Image // Courtesy of Coldplay.com


In June 2008, Coldplay released their song “Viva la Vida” with Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People on its cover. The band’s single is about a ruler who has lost his kingdom and is written from an anti-authoritarian viewpoint. Delacroix’s romantic work embodies the spirit of the song. Its intense diagonals and dark shadows highlight the grit of the tenacious, revolutionary fighters. So, the next time you hear the lyrics, “And that was when I ruled the world,” maybe think about Delacroix’s female personification of liberty, versus Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow and their “conscious uncoupling.” Or, maybe not.


Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa (1819) / Joel-Peter Witkins, The Raft of George W. Bush (2006)

Image // Courtesy of The Guardian


In 1819, Gericault finished painting The Raft of the Medusa, a work that criticized the French government after it had left more than forty passengers to fend for themselves on a raft off of Africa. In 2006, photographer Joel-Peter Witkins created the tableau above. After seeing the French painting in the Louvre, he drew a correlation between its attack on the French government and his own attack on the United States’, during George W. Bush’s administration. To create his image, Witkins hired a variety of look-a-likes, including a man working at a Malibu Zoo to play Bush and a retired nurse to pose as Barbara Bush. His final image certainly doesn’t beat around the bush. No pun intended.


Now go out and impress your friends with your historical references and their contemporary replications! Or, keep them to yourself and enjoy today’s appropriately lit Empire State building. Mais certainement, Viva la France!