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Christ's Entry in Brussels

18 March 1886
l'Entrée du Christ à Bruxelles, James Ensor, 1888

When the Belgian painter James Ensor conceived his famous work of art l'Entrée du Christ à Bruxelles, Belgium experienced an année terrible.  In a time of severe economic depression, with large parts of the working class unemployed and starving, unrest began on 18 March 1886 when the anarchists in Liège marched to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Paris Commune and several demonstrators were killed. In a population of six million, 5.900.000 had no right to vote. The painting is partly modeled on newspaper illustrations depicting a huge socialist march in Brussels in 1886. James Ensor, who had many anarchist and socialist friends, depicted the crowd  'like a carnival in which the normal order disintegrates...straight to the heart of the social matter: collectivity as such.' l'Entrée du Christ, measuring 253 x 431 cm, is now in the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California.

From Stefan Jonsson, A Brief History of the Masses. Three Revolutions (New York 2008)