Marianne as Liberty

Marianne is one of the most prominent symbols of the French Republic. A national emblem of France, Marianne is, by extension, an allegory of Liberty and Reason. She represents France as a state and its values (as opposed to the "Gallic rooster" representing France as a nation and its history, land and culture). She is displayed in many places in France and holds a place of honour in town halls and law courts. In a bronze sculpture overlooking the Place de la Nation in Paris, she symbolises the "Triumph of the Republic". Her profile stands out on the official seal of the country, is engraved on French euro coins and appears on French postage stamps; it also was featured on the former franc currency.

Sculpture of Marianne

Iconography. The origins of Marianne are uncertain. In classical times it was common to represent abstract ideas by allegories. The tradition was also common during the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque. During the French Revolution, in 1789, many allegories of "Liberty" and "Reason" appeared. These two figures finally merged into one: a woman, shown either sitting or standing, and accompanied by various attributes such as the cockerel, the tricolor cockade, and the Phrygian cap. This woman typically symbolised Liberty, Reason, the Nation, the Homeland, and the civic virtues of the Republic. In September 1792, the National Convention decided by decree that the new seal of the state would represent a standing woman holding a spear with a Phrygian cap held aloft on top of it.
Why is it a woman and not a man who represents the Republic? Before the French Revolution, the Kingdom of France was embodied in masculine figures (e.g., those depicted in certain ceilings of Palace of Versailles). In the French language, Kingdom is a masculine noun (le Royaume), but the noun Republic is a feminine one (la République), and so are the French nouns for Liberty (la Liberté) and Reason (la Raison).
The use of Marianne was initially unofficial and very diverse. A female allegory of Liberty and of the Republic makes an appearance in Eugène Delacroix's painting Liberty Leading the People, painted in July 1830 in honour of the Three Glorious Days (July Revolution of 1830). Marianne was painted by artist Honoré Daumier as a mother nursing two children (1848), and sculpted by François Rude as an angry warrior voicing the Marseillaise on the Arc de Triomphe. She was subsequently both portrayed in republican iconography and caricatured by those against the Republic. Although both are common emblems of France, neither Marianne nor the Gallic rooster enjoys official status; the flag of France, as named and described in Article 2 of the French constitution, is the only official emblem. In any case, Marianne has become a most important symbol in France, where is always regarded as an allegory of the Republic.

République Française: Marianne

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