Painted just nine years after the Revolution of 1848, Jean-Francois Millet’s 1857 painting “The Gleaners” shook the foundations of Parisian polite society almost as much as the insurgency itself. Products of the Romantic ideal that had come to inhabit literature, painting, and philosophy across Europe, both the revolution and Millet’s masterwork were a reaction to calls for individual liberty, regardless of class or social status. It was the revolution that spawned Marx and Engels’ text The Communist Manifesto, and slowly led to a century of drastic change. First shown at the Paris Salon, “The Gleaners” was indicted as an attack on bourgeois morality. For contemporary critics, simply the sight of peasants as the subjects of a work in the Salon was enough to destroy the artist’s reputation. The subject of the work is the sullen activity known as ‘gleaning’ whereby the local peasant women were allowed to pick up the scraps and shavings left after the harvesting of the season’s crops. Bent over in humility and exhaustion, the women are depicted against the illustrious backdrop of the landlord’s property. Without any classical anchor with which to read the work, critics at the time were aghast at what appeared to be nothing less than an incitement of revolt. With an audience used to reading allegory and symbols, Millet’s work mystified many who saw it, missing the simple message of decrying poverty, inequality, and austerity. The only figure with which the viewer might have identified — the landowner watching atop his horse, and merely a speck on the horizon — served to underline the social distance upon which French life was structured.