What’s that on the Walls of the former Council Chamber of the League of Nations?

By Otto Spijkers
Palais des Nations.jpg
I recently went to Geneva to visit the Palais des Nations, which was once the home of the League of Nations. It is now a UN conference centre. I took a guided tour that brought me to the Council Chamber. The walls of this Council Chamber were decorated by José Maria Sert, a painter from Barcelona. The paintings are certainly beautiful, and convey a message of human values. But the way this message is conveyed is somewhat peculiar.
The Council Chamber was once the home of the League Council, the predecessor of the United Nations Security Council. The Council Chamber now hosts the Conference on Disarmament.Social and Technical Progress.jpg The message conveyed by the various murals is one of faith, justice, intelligence, hope, solidarity, peace, and technical, scientific and social progress. But the paintings have a very ‘realist’ tone. On the painting about social progress one can find black slaves, about to be liberated. A white man, presumably Abraham Lincoln, oversees the whole thing. On the painting about peace, one can find five men and a bow of peace. One can also find two ‘realist’ paintings: one depicting the
conquerors of war (probably the First World War), carrying a heavy
burden that signifies their dead. Next to that, one can find the
conquered, shaking their fists to the sky, crying for revenge. This
last painting is particularly striking, knowing that the League did not
prevent the outbreak of the Second World War.
The Progress of Science.jpg

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