She’s the official emblem of France and represents its ideal of female beauty.
Her effigy is shown on stamps, coins, statues and other symbols of la république française.
She wasn’t born yesterday. ‘La Marianne’ first came to life back in the days of the French Revolution. An allegory for Liberty and Reason, she is traditionally shown wearing a Phyrgian or liberty cap. She is said to have been the inspiration for Delacroix’s painting, ‘Liberty leading the people.‘
She’s had a few facelifts since then.
Famous Mariannes in recent history have included Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Sophie Marceau and Laetitia Casta (a lovely Corsican, as mentioned in my recent blog post).
When the new Marianne was unveiled in July, she created quite the stir. Not that unusual in a country that loves a good polémique. What is somewhat striking is that the model chosen to represent the French Republic is not French, although she was recently granted political asylum in this country. Inna Shevchenko hails from Ukraine, and is a member of Femen, the topless women’s activist group known for baring their breasts to publicize their cause. The fact that they are all attractive young damsels certainly has not hurt their case, especially in France where an appreciation of the female anatomy is considered entirely normal.
Still, it is hard to imagine what Francois Hollande and the mayors of France were thinking. Okay, so the tradition of the Marianne continues…fair of face, bare-breasted and with a strong revolutionary streak.