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  • Marianne, Louvigny city hall

    Marianne, Louvigny city hall

    Marianne is an allegory of French Republic. © AFP

  • Marianne, Luxembourg Palace, Senate

    Marianne, Luxembourg Palace, Senate

    Under the 3rd Republic, statues and especially busts of Marianne became common, in particular in town halls. © AFP

Marianne, an allegory that has become the symbol of the French Republic.

The first illustration of a woman with a Phrygian cap, an allegory of Liberty and the Republic, appeared during the French Revolution.

No one knows for certain the origin of the name Marianne. It was a very common forename in the 18th century, so Marie-Anne signified the people. But counter revolutionaries also referred to the Republic as Marie-Anne in scorn.

The Phrygian cap, a symbol of liberty, was worn by freed slaves in Greece and Rome. This type of cap was also worn by sailors and galley slaves in the Mediterranean and was adopted by the revolutionaries coming up from the south of France.

Under the 3rd Republic, statues and especially busts of Marianne became common, in particular in town halls. Several types of representation developed, according to whether the revolutionary nature or "wise" nature of Marianne was favoured: sometimes the Phrygian cap was thought to be too seditious and was replaced by a tiara or crown.

Since the Liberation of France in 1944, Marianne has taken on the faces of famous actresses: Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Laetitia Casta and Sophie Marceau. Marianne is also shown on objects in very widespread circulation, such as coins and postage stamps.