Charlie Hebdo march photograph draped over the Pompidou Centre in Paris

Photograph dubbed 'the pencil leading the people' shows a man holding a giant pencil amongst other demonstrators with a tricolour flag next to a statue symbolising the French republic

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The Independent Online

A giant blow-up of a photograph which has come to epitomise the enormous rallies "against hatred" in France last weekend has been draped on the Beaubourg arts centre in Paris.

The image taken by a Reuters photographer, Stéphane Mahé, shows a man holding a giant pencil amongst other demonstrators with a tricolour flag next to a statue symbolising the French republic.

It has been dubbed on social media "the pencil leading the people"– a reference to a celebrated painting by the 19th century French artist, Eugène Delacroix, "Liberty leading the people".

Mr Mahé – and several other news photographers – spotted the resemblance between the Delacroix painting and a group of people clambering last Sunday evening on the "Triumph of the Republic" statute in the Place de la République in Paris. He said that he made "several tours" of the square before catching the group in the perfect pose and the perfect light.

 

"I had a pretty good idea the photograph would go around he world," he said. He was right. His picture appeared in newspapers and websites all over the globe and became one of the most visited images on the internet.

A tarpaulin 13 metres high and 8 metres wide printed with the image was unfurled this moring on the Centre Georges Pompidou or Beaubourg modern arts centre in Paris.

Alain Seban, president of the centre, said: "This vivid, vibrant image recalls several Republican icons which are part of art history… It surpasses all other accounts of the magnificent public response we all witnessed and took part in (last weekend)."

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