Monday, August 27, 2007

La Marianne -The Symbol of The French Republic

By Lin Davidson

Marianne is the symbolic representation of the motherland spirit; healing, peaceful, nourishing and protecting. She is beautiful by the diversity of the people who devised her and who made her rich and with fine features. She is the daughter or girl of light and is the woman made beautiful. She is sometimes considered like a queen of France. Her creation at first featured some specific Greek/Roman antique drawings such as Athena, Venus or Bellone, and the catholic figure of the Virgin Mary.

The origin of the name seems to be a coming together of Marie and Anne, two Christian names of the 18th century among the catholic population of the royals of France, and carried by several queens, like Marie of Medicis, Anne of Austria, and Marie-Antoinette. The use of the name Marianne as a symbol of the republic has been attributed to the revolutionary song in ‘occitan’, ‘La Garisou de Marianno’ (in French La Guerison de Marianne), the healing of Marianne by Guillaume Lavabre. The name of Marianne was, at the end of the 18th century, very widespread in the working classes and notably carried by girls of the country who served in the bourgeoisies houses. The song recounted the avatars of the new regime, very likely written in October 1792, a dozen days only after the foundation of the republic. It put in motion the first occurrence of the name Marianne which became the symbol of the republic. Marianne is representative of the revenge of the servants towards the nobles, the people at the bottom towards those on top. The writer of the song, Guillaume Lavabre, was a shoemaker from Puylaurens. The village of Puylaurens claimed from then on the title of ‘berceau Occitan de la Marianne republicaine”.

This name is representative of the people. The revolutionaries adopted this to symbolize the change of regime, but above all, they made the symbol of the motherland, the mother who nourishes and protects the children of the republic. The republicans of the Midi contributed also and adopted this name for their political ideal. The use of this name, like the symbol, was born of a consensus between the partisans and the adversaries of the republic, and then rapidly accepted by all of the French people. Rumours indicate that the first model was a young girl of Sigolsheim in Alsace with the Christian name of Marie-Anne.

The republic was already represented by some feminine features but now she was made to look a little pensive, preoccupying herself above all, with the aspirations of the people. There exists several versions in stonework of the symbols of Marianne and are often found in Greek and Roman antiquities where there has been a French mason.

The symbols of Marianne:

  • A bonnet/cap Liberty
  • A crown To be able to
  • A naked breast Invincibility
  • A lion The courage and force of the people
  • A star Light
  • A triangle Equality
  • Broken chains Liberty
  • Crossed hands Brotherhood
  • Sheaf of arms The authority of the State
  • Scales Justice
  • Ruche Work
  • Tables of the law Law
The first representation of a woman in a bonnet, indicating liberty of the republic, appeared under the French Revolution. They have been different down the centuries according to the preoccupations of the French people, and do not systematically carry all the symbols. Today, she figures on some objects like coins and stamps.

The Marianne can be sculpted on foot or in bust. She started to appear in Town Halls after 1877, replacing busts of Napoleon III. Under the Third Republic, the statues and above all the busts of Marianne multiplied, particularly in town halls. Several types of representation developed as the bonnet was sometimes judged too sedentary and replaced with a diadem or a crown.

In the 20th century, all the town halls adopted a bust of Marianne but which now carried the bonnet but seemed to get rid of other attributes (like the sheaf of arms or scales). The last representations, the more modern in the town halls today, are modeled on the features of famous women. These women are chosen for a number of varied reasons; their companionship, their beauty, their locality, their personalities. Some famous celebrities whose features have been used in the sculpting of La Marianne have been Brigitte Bardot in 1970 and Catherine Deneuve in 1985.

Since the liberation of France in 1944, women chosen for modeling the Marianne were uniquely famous actresses, but in 2000, the association of the mayors of France, chose a particular model appreciated by the French, and in 2002 Evelyne Thomas, an animator of a popular television programme was chosen. These choices are sometimes subject to controversy.

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