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town hall statues

Marianne sculpted by Saupique during the Fourth Republic
Marianne sculpted by Saupique during the Fourth Republic

New translation, the Magna Carta


‘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

the calendar of the French Revolution

marker Cathedral destruction by the Huguenots and during the French revolution marker Declaration of the Rights of Man  and of the Citizen, 1789


new! Cathedrale Saint-Gatien at Tours  Cathedrale Saint-Gatien at Tours

Romanesque churches and cathedrals in south-west France updated: Romanesque churches and cathedrals in south-west France

 the perpendicular or English style of cathedral  Manchester cathedral

the fire at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
the fire at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
cathedral giants - Amiens and Beauvais

Stone tracery in church and cathedral construction illustrated
stone in church and cathedral construction

stained glass and cathedrals in Normandy illustrated graph

fortified churches, mostly in Les Landes

cathedral labyrinths and mazes in France
using metal in gothic cathedral construction

Germans in France
cathedral destruction during the French revolution, subsidiary page to Germans in France

Click for an introduction to cathedrals and stained glass in France.

on first arriving in France - driving
France is not England
paying at the péage (toll station)

Click for motorways and motorway aires in France.

Transbordeur bridges in France and the world 2: focus on Portugalete, Chicago, Rochefort-Martrou
Gustave Eiffel’s first work: the Eiffel passerelle, Bordeaux
a fifth bridge coming to Bordeaux: pont Chaban-Delmas, a new vertical lift bridge

France’s western isles: Ile de Ré
France’s western iles: Ile d’Oleron

Ile de France, Paris: in the context of Abelard and of French cathedrals
short biography of Pierre (Peter) Abelard

Marianne - a French national symbol, with French definitive stamps

la Belle Epoque
Grand Palais, Paris

Click to go to pages about Art Deco at

Click to go to 'the highest, longest: the viaduct de Millau'

Pic du Midi - observing stars clearly, A64
Carcassonne, A61: world heritage fortified city

Space City, Toulouse

the French umbrella & Aurillac

50 years old: Citroën DS
the Citroën 2CV: a French motoring icon

the forest as seen by Francois Mauriac, and today
Les Landes, places and playtime
roundabout art of Les Landes

Hermès scarves

Hèrmes logo

bastide towns
mardi gras! carnival in Basque country
country life in France: the poultry fair

what a hair cut! m & french pop/rock

Tour de France 2023s

Le Tour de France: cycling tactics illustrated

who is Marianne?
Marianne on town hall statues
on Marianne’s appearance
the models
end notes


who is Marianne?

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 seal of the State ... will carry a symbol for France with features of a woman."
Decree of the Convention of September 21, 1792.

The Republic was to be represented in the guise of a woman wearing the Phrygian cap, emblem of 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 on town hall statues

The Convention, in 1792, decided to represent the Republic in the guise of a woman wearing the Phrygian cap, emblem of Liberty. Marianne's familiar nickname was given to her at the same time, in Languedoc first, by the "vox populi". No doubt because this name, formed by the name of the Virgin and her mother, was widespread in the small people in the eighteenth century, and it was therefore appropriate for the young Republic that was born.
The custom of installing a bust of Marianne in town halls dates back to the early years of the Third Republic. But in 1871, to give the new regime a wiser picture, President Adolphe Thiers banned the representation of the revolutionary hat, considered a "seditious emblem". This is why the oldest Marianas de mairie are simply wearing a vegetable crown made of wheat ears, oak leaves or olive branches, sometimes surmounted by the star, symbol of the Enlightenment. The Phrygian cap will not reappear until 1879.
There has never been an official bust of the Republic. Each sculptor is free to represent Marianne in his own way and each mayor is free to choose his model. This explains the extraordinary diversity of town hall busts. Recently, fashion has wanted to give Marianne the traits of famous artists, but she has had many other faces, kind or severe, and always anonymous, as evidenced by this exhibition.
In the nineteenth century, Marianne was the subject of a popular devotion. Many small busts of bronze or plaster were found in commerce, and among the fervent republicans, like the crucifix or religious statuette in Catholic homes. This production for domestic use has totally disappeared.

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.

In France, a Marianne statue is known as a "Bust of the Republic".

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.

These busts are often termed as "the bust of the Republic" by the French.

on Marianne’s appearance

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.

Great Seal of State, FranceSo Delacroix’s Marianne could be regarded as defiant and proud, displayed in protest; while on the Great Seal of State, Marianne is dignified and subservient to affairs of state [2].

In general, “the Republic prefers an opulent, more maternal breast, with its promise of generosity and abundance” [3]. 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).

A bust of Marianne in the Salle des Fetes, part of the Mairie of a provincial town. The Salle des Fetes is used for meetings, including civil marriage ceremonies.
A bust of Marianne in the Salle des Fêtes, part of the Mairie [town hall] of a provincial town.
The Salle des Fêtes is used for meetings, including civil marriage ceremonies.

the models

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.

Brigitte Bardot Michele Morgan as Marianne Mireille Mathieu
Brigitte Bardot Michèle Morgan Mireille Mathieu
1969 1972 1978
actress   singer
sculptor: Alain Gourdon (Aslan) sculptor: Bernard Potel sculptor: Alain Gourdon
Catherine Deneuve Ines de la Fressange as Marianne Laetitia Casta
Catherine Deneuve Inès de la Fressange Laetitia Casta
1985 1989 2000
actress model, muse of Chanel and fashion designer fashion model
sculptor: Marielle Polksa   sculptor: Marie-Pierre Deville-Chabrolle
évelyne Thomas 21.12.2009
The mayors’ association of France voted for Florence Foresti, an actress and comedienne, to be France’s next Marianne. This vote has to be ratified by the State. The runners-up were Carla Bruni-Sarkosy, Laure Manaudou and Rama Yade.
Évelyne Thomas
talk show host
sculptor: Daniel Druet    

related links

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.

end notes

  1. In 1871, to give the new regime a more thoughtful and wise image, President Adolphe Thiers prohibited the representation of revolutionary cap, considered a “seditious emblem”. This is why the oldest town hall Mariannes are simply wearing a vegetative crown composed of wheat ears, oak leaves or olive branches, sometimes surmounted by the star symbol of Enlightenment. The Phrygian cap not reappear until 1879.

  2. In 1792, a decree stipulated that the State Seal be changed and bear the figure of France in the guise of a woman dressed as in the fashion of Antiquity. She should be standing upright with her right hand holding a pikestaff surmounted by a Phrygian bonnet, or Liberty bonnet, her left hand resting on a bundle of arms, and at her feet, a tiller. Note that the woman is not named Marianne in 1792, and that the woman on the seal is in fact sitting, rather than standing.

  3. Quoted from writer/historian Maurice Agulhon.

  4. This Marianne’s full name is Inès Marie Laetitia Églantine Isabelle de Seignard de la Fressange.

  5. In 2003, Évelyne Thomas, a chat show host (C’est mon choix - It’s my choice) was chosen as the model for Marianne. However, a row broke out because:

    “[...] the new Marianne did not believe in equality.

    “Equality in France meant trying to fit everyone into the same mould, she said.

    “It meant being unable to express your difference. And that was what her show - it is called It's My Choice - was all about: giving ordinary people, not the Paris intellectuals, the chance to speak and to be seen.” [Quoted from]

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