The Apollo statue that crowns the fountain at Place Massena has had his trials and tribulations, even being banned in the 70’s for being overly well-endowed…
At its grand unveiling in 1956, in front of the thousands that crowded Place Massena, the 7-meter high, 7-ton white marble statue of Apollo elicited gasps. First there were the kitschy horses on his head, but then… his masculine attributes were seen as being a bit too… embellished.
A full-on scandal ensued, and finally the sculptor, Alfred Janniot, was called back, the scaffolding was re-erected, and Apollo was, shall we say, chiseled down to size.
But the controversy over Apollo’s family jewels did not end there! He was no longer exactly out of proportion, but as the statue is nearly 4 times the size of a man, his accouterments are naturally super-sized as well, giving him an impressive look that… tends to catch the eye. So in 1979, after being frequently mocked and vandalized (see photo), 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 North Nice, where he lived in obscurity for 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 Niçoise 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 finally bringing the big guy back from exile, in all his glory.
No fig leaf for Apollo!
See also: Nice France and a Delightful Mystery
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