Ask Morgana 173: Marianne!

Marianne 0 Delacroix Liberty

Today the subject of ‘Ask Morgana’ isn’t an artist, but a subject, a symbol. It’s Bastille Day today, the anniversary of an event in 1789 that marked the start of the French Revolution of the 1790s. It remains France’s Jour National to this day. To my mind, therefore, there is no better way to celebrate than with the Phrygian-capped symbol of Liberté – ‘Marianne’. Strictly speaking, the bare-breasted woman at the head of this post isn’t Marianne, nor is it a depiction of July 1789. Rather it is a detail from Eugène Delacroix’s ‘Liberty leading the people’, which celebrated the July Revolution of 1830. However, the Phrygian cap associated with the earlier Sans-Culottes movement is there. Liberty’s bared breasts are not a symbol of the erotic in this case, but of unabashed truth and freedom. Marianne has nonetheless had many reinterpretations over the years, in particular since she became widely used on French postage stamps (since 1849, I believe).

Marianne 1

In the past few decades, Marianne’s re-interpretations have included her being given the face of series of well-known women – Brigitte Bardot, Mireille Mathieu, Catherine Deneuve, and so on. The 2013 design by Olivier Ciappa and David Kawena was said to have taken the face of the exiled Ukrainian activist Inna Shevchenko, whose often topless protests were directed with great irony against the exploitation of women. The representation on the postage stamp was a chaste one, but it still proved contentious and controversial. The version by Andre Boos (below) featured Marianne as a fresh-face, freckled country lass.

Marianne 2 Andre de Boos

Marianne was depicted as almost a jolie laide in the sculpture below. I do not know who executed this bust, but… yes… it is indeed the bust that draws the eye, nipples straining against a single-gallused blouson.

Marianne 3

And there we have it – the significance of breasts moving from freedom, to protest, to celebration (see the young woman below, gleefully greeting the election of François Hollande in 2012), to eroticism. Eroticism? Yes, the final image is by erotic artist Aslan, who has used the face of Brigitte Bardot, the ultimate French ‘sex symbol’.

Marianne 4 2012 Hollande victory

Marianne 5 Bardot by Aslan

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Images reproduced under ‘fair use’ provisions.

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