Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic, has appeared in many guises since the Revolution. Perhaps the most often seen representation in Eugene Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People, featuring a slightly zaftig, bare-breasted maiden wearing a Phyrigan cap and carrying the tricoleur!
In recent times, Marianne has been modified, especially in the form of busts of this mythical figure placed in public buildings. Let's face it: she changed with the tastes of the time. For a while, Brigitte Bardot was the model for Marianne*; later Catherine Denevue and Laetitia Casta and others. All did splendidly.
In a postage stamp publicly unveiled by President Xavier Hollande and issued recently, the newest reincarnation of Marianne was a composite figure, in which Ukrainian FEMEN leader Inna Shevchenko was the primary source of the image (according to the artist)! FEMEN had developed an effective means of gaining attention by protesting various things while topless, often using guerilla methods and managing to have conflicts with legal authorities.
Predictably, this choice resulted in controversy. Some of the right wing wants to boycott the stamp, while criticism was levied on having a non-Frenchwoman as the model, even though France granted her asylum.
The French know how to get worked up!
|A FEMEN member protesting in Paris|
FEMEN member chopping down a cross in Kiev
|The classic version by Delacroix: |
one of the most dramatic works of art ever!
So what can be said? Will this version of Marianne take hold, even if not bare-breasted, unlike the frequent representation? It's ironical, as the French do not get as in an uproar over topless women, unlike Americans. Also, she seems more winsome rather than resolute. And, darn it, she lacks the crown of red, white, and blue flowers so often worn by FEMEN members, even though those are France's national colors!
Maybe we could take a page from the French on this, and find some modern incarnation of Lady Liberty. But which actress or popular singer do you think should fill the part? Any suggestions?
*Some of the Brigette Bardot Marianne busts were quite explicit!