No Fig Leaf for Apollo

(UPDATED below)

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 'vandalized' with impromptu painted fig leaf in the 70's

 

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

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14 Responses to No Fig Leaf for Apollo

  1. Maypay says:

    Great post, really amusing. The” League of Feminine Virtue”…are you making this up?
    Talk about stiffies .

  2. Pernicious Git says:

    Great writing; enjoyed reading that. Thanks!

  3. Pinman says:

    What is going to happen during the winter?
    Will it be a case of “cazzo gelato?”

  4. goupil says:

    I have been told the statue is a copy of one intended by Hitler to grace the new gross Berlin ?

    • Best of Nice Blog says:

      Unlikely: the statues for the fountain were sculpted in the 1930′s by Alfred Janniot, which was after he came back from fighting for France in WWI.
      He was the ‘official’ French sculptor in the ’30′s and he also created the Monument aux Morts that’s carved into the back side of the Chateau.

  5. Tom says:

    I don’t know…looks kind of small to me.

    • morning Alisha says:

      Looks small to me. I was expecting to see some outrageous sized penis. People are really stupid at times.

  6. Christos says:

    Well, during the 4th century CE most of Greek and Roman naked statues were vandalized by fanatic christians with hammer and chizel at their genitalia and sometimes even noses and hands. Greek museums have many statues were the penis is cut off.

  7. Blondie says:

    Scaled down to human-size proportions, I’d be disappointed if my boyfriend was that small when soft. What’s up with the French?

  8. Jeanne says:

    Is it true that Mayor Estrosi once joked that the statue was modeled after him? I seem to recall that comment.

    • Best of Nice Blog says:

      I thought it was too, but I looked at the old clipping and it was Andre Barthe, Councillor Municipal for Culture:
      “Actually, the other statues in the fountain are equally nude, but Apollo, he was really something. I should know: I’m the one that posed for the sculpture!”

  9. Bruce Bethany says:

    I look forward to the erection of Apollo and hope the usual pranksters
    don’t get him all lathered up. But for sure he’ll get a bubble bath.

  10. I am so delighted to hear that Apollo is coming back from exile… I intend to be there and welcome the Immortal Sun God with music, as He deserves… I wonder what the reactions would have been like, if it were Pan “re-erected”, instead of Apollo…

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