THATKid Tuesday: French Flag & Marianne!

THATKid Tuesday is a monthly dose of Art History for kids, posted on the first Tuesday of each month. In this series, we’ll be blogging about different terms from the THATKid glossary we’ve created to help kids understand some of the art history terms that pop up in our hunts.

The subject of this post is: TRICOLOR FRENCH FLAG & MARIANNE! 

Have you ever seen the French flag? If you have, you’ll know it’s made of three stripes: blue, white, and red. That’s why it’s called the tricolor, which means “three colors”.

French tricolor flag
The French tricolor flag

The Tricolor Flag

In the French flag, the three colors of red, white and blue symbolize what the French Republic stands for: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity (brotherhood).

The Tricolor Flag first came into use in France after the French Revolution in 1789, over two hundred years ago! Originally, the colors were reversed, so the red was on the left. The idea for the flag came from the French cockades that came into fashion during the French Revolution. These were circular badges that were attached to hats.

Before this, the French flag was plain white, the color associated with the Bourbon family, who had ruled France from the 16th Century. They were overthrown in the French Revolution.

After Napoleon, the French Emperor, was defeated at the famous Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the Bourbon family returned to power, and started using the plain white flag again.

However, in 1830 the Bourbon family were overthrown again, and the famous tricolor flag has been used ever since.

Eugene Delacroix's painting: Liberty Leading the People
Delacroix’s famous painting, Liberty Leading the People


Marianne is the lady who represents the French Republic and its triumph over the monarchy. You can see her on French stamps, at all town-halls, and in governmental buildings. Until France adopted the Euro in 2002, she was even on French money!

There are two very famous images of Marianne. One is Delacroix’s painting, Liberty Leading the People (at the Louvre), and the other is the bronze sculpture which overlooks Place de la Republique in Paris.

A goddess of liberty, Marianne has represented the French Republic since its roots. Her first major appearance was on a medal in 1789, celebrating the storming of the Bastille. Her popularity has increased and decreased throughout the years, as she embodied the ideals of the French Republic.

During the Second World War, France was occupied by Germany and ruled by the Vichy government, who were named after the town where they were based. The Vichy government didn’t like the symbol of Marianne, so they melted down 120 of the 427 monuments of her!

She has been portrayed in different ways throughout the years: sometimes fiercer, sometimes not. But like the Tricolor, she is still an important symbol of France today.

Any questions about Marianne? Please leave any comments or queries below!

Old postcard showing the Marianne statue at Place de la Republique, Paris
An old postcard showing the statue of Marianne at Place de la République, Paris… where she still stands today!

Tune in the first Tuesday of next month if you’d like another art history dose of THATKid, or join our mailing list to get all of our blog posts direct to your inbox in a convenient weekly email!

The idea for THATKid Tuesday stemmed from the Kid Pack’s glossary. The Kid Pack has supplemental exercises for after your Louvre hunt, from a Michelangelo Connect-the-Dots and a Mona Lisa sticker-puzzle to a Botticelli Spot-the-Difference. Good for train rides or long French dinners, kids can also pick up on some terms like composition, perspective and the lot. As THATMuse has grown to include the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert and Musée d’Orsay, THATKid Tuesday’s blog version has grown to include other examples.  

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