La Defense of Paris

La Defense of Paris

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Title: Defense.

Author : RODIN Auguste (1840 - 1917)

Creation date : 1879

Date shown: 1870

Dimensions: Height 151 - Width 80

Technique and other indications: plaster; patina

Storage location: Rodin Museum website

Contact copyright: © ADAGP, © Musée Rodin, Paris - Photo B. Jarretsite web

Picture reference: S.173

© ADAGP, Musée Rodin, Paris - Photo B. Jarret

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The defense of Paris

By obtaining a majority in the Senate and the departure of Mac-Mahon, replaced at the Elysee Palace by Jules Grévy, the Republicans were finally installed in power in 1879. Rodin, who then sought to make himself known, took part in this competition as did Bartholdi, Carrier-Belleuse, Boucher and Falguière.

Image Analysis

A group deemed too revolutionary

Like most of the other projects (around 100), his group consists of an allegorical figure and a warrior. But, instead of being defined by the costumes or symbols with which the figures were accompanied, the work is based on the contrast between the broken rhythm of the warrior's body, represented dying, and the dynamism of the female figure. She bursts out of the composition, her two arms with clenched fists widely spread and her mouth wide open like the Genius of the Fatherland from Rude to the Arc de Triomphe; but her broken wing which falls back gives her a more human character by making her appear vulnerable. As for the dying warrior, he offers a direct transposition of Christ from the Pietà by Michelangelo today at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence. Deemed too revolutionary, this vibrant group of violence was dismissed from the first stage of the competition, on November 29, 1879, the jury having given preference to more realistic works which, while having recourse to the language of allegory, gave seat a more historical vision. Featuring a resolute fighter at the foot of a proud image of the City of Paris, while in the back a little girl numbed by the cold recalls the harshness of the winter of 1870-1871, the monument due to Ernest Barrias was inaugurated on August 12, 1883.


By honoring the defense of Paris, the Republicans are showing their desire to reintegrate the capital into the national community. In this way they wish to put an end to the divisions born of the Commune, which without being forgiven is seen in a certain way forgotten. At the same time, this initiative enabled them to recall the national defense policy they pursued during the first months of the regime, which was very different from that of the Moral Order led by Thiers after 1871. The need for registration of the new regime affected therefore also to the symbolic order: the IIIe République was characterized from the 1880s by an impressive "statuomania", the source of many commissions.

Rodin's group would eventually find a place. In fact, the spirit of revenge that he proclaimed in 1879 gradually imposed itself, and Bénédite proposed this project in 1916 to the Dutch committee of the League of Neutral Countries, which wanted to erect a monument commemorating the defense of Verdun. : “There exists in the works of the Master a group quite of circumstance, he declared on January 27, 1917: Defense, which we could take again by giving it the desired dimensions. The quadruple expansion was carried out in 1917-1918, and the monument inaugurated in Verdun on August 1, 1920.

  • allegory
  • War of 1870
  • Paris
  • Rodin (Auguste)
  • sculpture
  • Paris Headquarters
  • Grevy (Jules)
  • Michelangelo


Maurice AGULHON Marianne in combat. Republican imagery and symbolism from 1789 to 1880 Paris, Flammarion, 1979.

Maurice AGULHON Marianne in power. Republican imagery and symbolism from 1880 to 1914 Paris, Flammarion, 1989.

Denis LAVALLE "The monument of La Défense and the statuary of the 19th century", in Georges WEILL, The Defense Perspective in Art and History Nanterre, Hauts-de-Seine departmental archives, 1983, p.132-153.

Daniel IMBERT "The monument of the Defense of Paris", exhibition When Paris danced with Marianne Paris, Petit Palais, 1989, p.86-103.

Ruth BUTLER Rodin. The solitude of genius Paris, Gallimard-Musée Rodin, 1998, p.76-81.

Collective, Exhibition catalog Rodin in 1900. The Alma exhibition Paris, RMN, 2001 (object n ° 52).

To cite this article

Antoinette LE NORMAND ROMAIN, "La Défense de Paris"

Video: Aerial Footage by dusk The business district of Paris La Défense Area Esplanade Nord - Courbevoie