La France Croisée

  • Romaine Brooks, La France Croisée, 1914, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 1970.69

In La France Croisée, Brooks voiced her opposition to World War I and raised money for the Red Cross and French relief organizations. Ida Rubinstein was the model for this heroic figure posed in a nurse’s uniform, with cross emblazoned against her dark cloak, against a windswept landscape outside the burning city of Ypres. This symbolic portrait of a valiant France was exhibited in 1915 at the Bernheim Gallery in Paris, along with four accompanying sonnets written by Gabriele D’Annunzio. The gallery offered reproductions for sale as a benefit to the Red Cross. For her contributions to the war effort, the French government awarded Brooks the Cross of the Legion of Honor in 1920. This award is visible as the bright red spot on Brooks’s lapel in her 1923 Self-Portrait.

The Art of Romaine Brooks, 2016

This poem by Gabriele d’Annunzio accompanied La France Croisée when Romaine Brooks first exhibited the painting in the window of a Paris gallery. Brooks painted a windswept female figure as a crusader and the personification of France. She based the woman’s strong features on those of the actress Ida Rubinstein, with whom she was in love at the time. The figure’s chiseled features and stern gaze set against the backdrop of a burning city evoke a sense of defiance and strength. The city represents Ypres in western Belgium, the site of a major battle during the first year of World War I. The emblem on Rubinstein’s shoulder evokes the bloodshed of war, but the brilliant red may also signal the painter’s passion for the actress. Reproductions of this painting, together with the poem, were later sold to raise money for the Red Cross, and Brooks received the Cross of the Legion of Honor for her service to France.

Have they hoisted the acrid sponge on the tip of the lance; Against her beauteous mouth elated with the sacrament: The cross without Christ, who suffers above her breast; Is nought but the double wound born in silence.” Gabriele dAnnunzio, reprinted in Chadwick, Amazons in the Drawing Room: The Art of Romaine Brooks, 2000
La France Croisée
Not on view
45 3433 12 in. (116.285.0 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the artist

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Occupation – medicine – nurse
  • Figure female – knee length
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

More from artist

More Artworks from the Collection