Banned from Place Massena in the ‘70’s for being overly well-endowed, the giant marble statue of Apollo is coming back. The fountain that currently crowns Place Massena has lived a long and twisted story: At its inauguration in 1956 there were the current five bronze statues, but also its crowning glory: a 7-meter high, 7-ton white marble statue of Apollo standing in the center.
Apollo’s ample attributes created controversy right away: it’s not that they were exactly out of proportion, but as the statue is nearly 4 times the size of a man …his accoutrements are super-sized as well, giving him an impressive package that… let’s just say, tends to catch the eye. So in 1979, after being frequently vandalized with paint (I’ll leave the details to your imagination), a local Catholic women’s group, The League of Feminine Virtue, finally succeeded in having our man dethroned. The statue was exiled to a spot where he would be less likely to offend women’s delicate sensibilities, to the football stadium in Nice Nord, where he has lived in obscurity all these years.
In the meantime, what was left of the fountain, as beautiful as is, seemed incomplete, and when it started leaking in the early ‘90’s, it was entirely dismantled and replaced with a very under-whelming grass-covered mound with 3 puny palm trees.
Fast-forward 15 years, when Place Massena was in the midst of tramway-hell, a local reporter doing a story on water treatment spied the bronze statues stored at the Haliotis Water Purification plant near the airport. He did a small nostalgic “where are they now” piece in the Nice-Matin, and suddenly there was a groundswell of support to bring back the magnificent fountain! With Place Massena already torn up from stem to stern, how much more trouble could it be to get rid of those pitiful palm trees and re-erect the much loved landmark? And so it was: with much fanfare then-Mayor Jacques Peyrat had the Greco-Roman fountain restored as a gift to the Nicoise for all they had put up with during the tramway construction. …But wait, there was one very large missing member! (I’m referring to Apollo.) More grassroots agitation ensued… culminating in last week’s announcement: The big guy, in all his glory, will finally be re-erected (so to speak) to his rightful place to reign over Place Massena on June 21, just in time for the Fete de la Musique. Ta da!
UPDATE: In an bizarre twist, history repeats itself as Apollo gets censored again! This post sparked a story in the mainstream American press last week, but then the editors, not seeing any irony, censored the photo themselves, blurring out the statue’s package until he resembled a Ken doll. How funny that 30 years later, our delicate sensibilities must still be protected from his marble mojo… but this time by the Americans? The more things change… AOL News: “Well-Endowed Apollo Statue to Be Re-Erected in France” by Dana Kennedy
Check out this one, too: Nice France and a Delightful Mystery
Latest Update June 21: Apollo Re-Erected at Place Massena