The bronze statue of Victor Noir at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

stlukesguild

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Jules Dalou: The Bronze Statue of Victor Noir at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise:

Art and Sex have always been bedfellows… but here is a rather unique instance of their relationship:

Victor Noir, (27 July 1848 in Attigny, Vosges — 11 January 1870 in Paris), was a French journalist who is famous for the manner of his death and its political consequences. His tomb in Paris later became a fertility symbol.

On 30 December, l'Avenir, the Parisian loyalist press, published a letter sent to its editor by Prince Pierre Bonaparte, the great-nephew of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and cousin of the then-ruling Emperor Napoleon III. Prince Bonaparte castigated the staff of the radical press, la Revanche as cowards and traitors. Grousset, editor of la Revanche took offense and demanded satisfaction.

Prince Bonaparte wrote a letter to Henri Rochefort, owner of la Revanche declaring that he would most certainly uphold the good name of his family:

“After having outraged each of my relations, you insult me with the pen of one of your menials. My turn had to come. Only I have an advantage over others of my name, of being a private individual, while being a Bonaparte… I therefore ask you whether your inkpot is guaranteed by your breast… I live, not in a palace, but at 59, rue d'Auteuil. I promise to you that if you present yourself, you will not be told that I left.”

On the following day, Grousset sent Victor Noir and Ulrich de Fonvielle as his seconds to fix the terms of a duel with Pierre Bonaparte. Contrary to custom, they presented themselves to Prince Bonaparte instead of contacting his seconds. Each of them carried a revolver in his pocket. Noir and de Fonvieille presented Prince Bonaparte with a letter signed by Grousset. But the prince declined the challenge, asserting his willingness to fight his fellow nobleman Rochefort, but not his “menials”. In response, Noir asserted his solidarity with his friends. According to Fonvieille, Prince Bonaparte then slapped his face and shot Noir dead. According to the Prince, it was Noir who took umbrage at the epithet and struck him first, whereupon he drew his revolver and fired at his aggressor. That was the version eventually accepted by the court.

A public outcry followed and on 12 January, led by political activist Auguste Blanqui, more than 100,000 people joined Noir’s funeral procession to a cemetery in Neuilly. Attendance in this procession was regarded as a civic duty for republicans. At a time when the Emperor was already unpopular, Pierre’s acquittal on the murder charge caused enormous public outrage that erupted into a number of violent demonstrations.

A life-size bronze statue was created by Jules Dalou to mark Noir’s grave, portrayed in a realistic style as though he had just fallen on the street, dropping his hat which is depicted beside him. The sculpture has a very noticeable protuberance in Noir’s trousers. According to some accounts, Noir was due to get married the day after he was killed. This has made it one of the most popular memorials for women to visit in the famous cemetery. Myth says that placing a flower in the upturned top hat after kissing the statue on the lips and rubbing its genital area will enhance fertility, bring a blissful sex life, or, in some versions, a husband within the year. As a result of the legend, those particular components of the oxidized bronze statue are rather well-worn.

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Some women, however, have reportedly taken the legend too far…by straddling and humping the bronze crotch of Noir excessively... even photographing themselves in the process.:oops: As a result, in 2004 a fence was erected around the statue, to deter superstitious people from touching it. Due to the fake protests of the “female population of Paris” covered by a French TV anchor however, it was torn down again. So the deterioration of the statue continues.

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-Burlesque artist and model, Dita von Teese, posed with the sculpture of Victor Noir
 
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