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Madame Mao
Invincible Mao Zedong Thought lights up the revolutionary artistic stage
Printed in February 1969

Jiang Qing, leader of the Gang of Four and the third and last wife of Mao Ze-Dong, is outfitted here as the Grand Priestess of the Cultural Revolution. Meanwhile, the Great Helmsman "the Red Sun in the Peoples' Hearts" radiates onto a handful of revolutionary operas and ballets. This poster from 1969 portrays well the dusk of the Maoist regime, characterized by its personality cult and the concentration of power in the hands of a select few close to the President.

Jiang Qing makes her debut as a movie actress in Shanghai under the pseudonym of Lan Ping (literally, Blue Apple). Her cinematic career is unmemorable, except for her role as Nora in an adaptation of Ibsen's "A Doll's House." She renounces her career to rally the revolutionary troops in Yan'an, base of the communist resistance. There she quickly seduces Mao Ze-Dong, and he repudiates his second wife to marry her. The other Communist leaders, who hardly appreciate this adventuress, are guaranteed that Madame Mao won't engage in politics.

At the outset of the 60s she nevertheless gains some responsibilities in the cultural field. But her power is weak and her decisions are seldom implemented. After the disastrous Great Leap Forward, Mao has been officially distanced from power. Jiang Qing too is neutralized. Later she will ruthlessly avenge herself for this humiliation.

The Cultural Revolution, Mao's brilliant maneuver to recoup his lost power, propels Jiang Qing into the foreground. Although rarely acting without her husband's approval, she is finally endowed with real political power. Jiang Qing and her close collaborators are sarcastically nicknamed the "Gang of Four" by Mao himself.

The reign of the Red Empress will last ten years, until the Great Helmsman's death. Then will come time to settle a score with the Cultural Revolution. As it behooves the Party to preserve Mao's image in the eyes of the masses, the Gang of Four becomes the obvious scapegoat. Jiang Qing is condemned to die but her sentence is commuted to life imprisonment. She will commit suicide a decade later, in 1991, sick and without hope of rehabilitation.