|‘Marianne part 2: town hall statues’ is one of a group of documents on Republican France|
|Marianne - a French national symbol, with French definitive stamps||
Marianne part 2: town hall statues
Transbordeur bridges in France and the world 2: focus on Portugalete, Chicago,
Marianne is a symbol of Republican France, as ordained in a Decree of 1792. The decree, adopted after the proclamation of the Republic, decided that the seal of the Republic would be a picture of a woman representing the goddess Liberty.
The first mention of Marianne as a symbolic representation of the Republic appeared in Languedoc between late 1792 and 1794.
A Marianne is a bust of a proud and determined woman wearing a Phrygian cap. She symbolises the attachment of the common citizens of the revolution to the Republic - Marianne is liberty, equality and fraternity.
For information about how Marianne was, and is, represented on French postage stamps, go to Marianne, a French national symbol, with French definitive stamps.
Marianne started to reappear as the representation of France in town halls from 1877, replacing the statues of Napoleon III.
During the twentieth century, busts of Marianne gradually appeared in every French town hall, and other public buildings such as libraries. At first, it could not be decided whether Marianne should appear revolutionary and wear the bonnet of Liberty (the Phrygian cap), or whether she should be the bountiful Earth Mother (like Ceres) and wear a wreath of wheat-ears, so her bust came with differing headdresses. Now the consensus is that she represents Republican values (Liberty, Fraternity and Equality) and always wears the Phrygian cap.
Frequently, she is also adorned with a tricolour sash, as worn by every French mayor on official occasions.
The reproduction statues are made from plaster, and can have coatings added to make them look more aged, or more valuable (see the Casta bust). When not named after the model, as has been the case recently, the Marianne busts are named after the sculptor.
One of the less-frequently mentioned attributes of the Republican symbol, Marianne, is her breasts. How the representation presents her mammaries is symbolic both of the mood of the Marianne, and of the Republic of that era.
In general, “the Republic prefers an opulent, more maternal breast, with its promise of generosity and abundance” . The idealised, symmetrical breasts even become another symbol of equality!
earlier depictions of Marianne
There is a collection of 19th and early 20th century busts of Marianne at the website of the Assemblée Nationale - the French House of Commons (Lower House).
Each sculptor was free to represent Marianne in his own way, and each mayor is free to choose their bust.This explains the extraordinary diversity of busts in town halls. It was only in the second half of the twentieth century that well-known French women were used as the model for busts of Marianne.
The first, of Brigitte Bardot, was apparently done as a joke by the sculptor, Alain Gourdon. More recent models have been chosen by balloting the mayors for their preference (for instance, Évelyne Thomas). Here are the famous Marianne models, with images when available.
This site (in French) all the trappings for running a well-appointed French town hall, from sashes, bunting and medals to voting boxes. The company also sells busts of different Mariannes, this page is the entry to the Marianne emporium.
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© abelard, 2006, 13 august
the address for this document is http://www.abelard.org/france/marianne2.php