Sunday, May 10, 2009

Swooning Statues in the Parc Monceau

Most of these monuments in the Parc Monceau are to musicians and writers. Apart from Chopin and Maupassant, most of them are not well known outside of France. But from the time I first started running in the park,  I was struck by the fact that every one of the men honored was in the business of impressing a woman. Even the bodiless busts of the men are paid homage by fully fleshed-out females. Such were the conventions of public sculpture in the 19th century, I suppose, and I am thankful, as I run past them, that the girls are there. They are not only more lovely to look at than the monumental men, they have more character.

The woman at the base of the column that bears the bust of Guy de Maupassant is especially memorable. The statue is close to the park's swings and carousel, and the grass around the base is worn away by children who run in circles around it. The tip of the woman's toe has been broken off, and her nose is gone, but her half-reclining pose is completely engaging. She seems to care neither for Guy above nor the kids below. She is looking for someone else, I think.

There are no monuments to women in the Parc Monceau, but I'd suggest one go to the wife and the niece of André-Jacques Garnerin. He made the first parachute jump in history from 3,000 feet above the Plaine de Monceau in 1797. But by the next year his young bride, 19-year-old Jeanne-Genevieve, had started taking the plunge, and a few years later their niece Elisabeth may well have become the first professional parachutist, jumping a remarkable 39 times from high-flying balloons. (See a charming little post about the "Garden of Airy Delights" at

CSD, Canon Elph SD1000

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