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For France's Marianne, big breasts aren't always better

April 1, 2011 |  3:15 pm

Marianne Apparently, former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft isn't the only politician to have blushed about a large-breasted sculpture.

The mayor of the French town of Neuville-en-Ferrain, near Lille, has removed a public sculpture on the grounds that the size of its breasts have upset some members of his administration, according to reports Friday. The offending sculpture is a bust of Marianne, France's symbolic republican heroine.

The creator of the sculpture, Catherine Lamacque, told Agence France-Presse that "I made the breasts prominent to symbolize the generosity of the Republic."

"The mayor's decision is absurd," she  continued. "I only hope that he will not have it destroyed."

The mayor, Gérard Cordon, will replace the sculpture with another one, based on the model Laetitia Casta.

The replacement statue's breasts are large as well -- judging from this France 3 broadcast -- but they are not nearly as prominent as those of Lamacque's Marianne.

Artists throughout history have depicted Marianne as curvy and voluptuous. Delacroix's famous painting "Liberty Leading the People" shows her bare-breasted and holding aloft the French flag, while Daumier's "La République " depicts her proudly nursing two toddlers, Romulus and Remus.

Marianne's breasts -- whether fully exposed or partially concealed -- have been regarded as symbolic of motherhood and abundance, and communicate the bountiful and all-inclusive nature of republicanism. 

When choosing models for Marianne, the French people have tended to vote for actresses and models known for a generous bustline. Brigitte Bardot served as a Marianne model in 1970. More recently, Casta was selected to pose in 1999. The curvy Casta famously stated that "I tell people my breasts were made in Normandy, from butter and crème fraîche."


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-- David Ng

Photos: Top, the offending "Marianne" sculpture by Catherine Lamacque. Credit: L.A. Times screenshot from a France 3 broadcast. Bottom, Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People." Credit: Wikimedia Commons