the skin of a restored statue of Victor Hugo deliberately darkened? — RT in French

Present since 2003 in Besançon, a statue of Victor Hugo had never met with criticism before its controversial restoration. Now the writer’s skin looks black. The right is moved, the town hall defends itself from any bad intentions.

The revelation of the restored statue of Victor Hugo by the city of Besançon on November 18 arouses controversy. Offered to the writer’s birthplace by the Senegalese artist Ousmane Sow (1935-2016), the statue, installed in 2003, now unleashes passions. The reason: the color of his skin, different from that of the initial statue before the wear of the patina.

Any liberties taken with respect to the original work?

Asked by LEast Republican, the artist’s widow, Béatrice Soulé, denounced the work done: “The original face was flesh-colored. It looks like a black Victor Hugo, which was never Ousmane’s intention. The writer’s beard would also have been more subtly colored originally. She also clarified to the regional daily that she had not been consulted by Besançon for this controversial restoration.

The former mayor of Besançon Jean-Louis Fousseret, present at the inauguration of the statue in 2003, shares this opinion: Ousmane Sow, who was one of the great encounters of my life, wanted this Victor Hugo as he was when he was inaugurated. And the color was quite different from what we see now,” noted the former city councilor, from the presidential party.

Some right-wing personalities were quick to seize on this story, seeing in it a deliberate will of the town hall, echoing past controversies on the blackface and the attacks on the statues of historical figures, one of the modes of action of the activists woke.

“The EELV town hall of Besançon therefore practices the blackface with impunity on Victor Hugo? Where are the anti-racist associations to denounce it? “, Wrote the ex-executive of the Republicans Lydia Guirous.

MEP and member of Reconquête Gilbert Collard considered that with “the madness woke of the Greens, the statues will see all the colors”.

The city says it did not want to move away from the artist’s vision

However, the city affirms that it did not wish to move away from the artist’s vision: “To get closer to the original spirit, the Coubertin foundry [ancienne collaboratrice d’Ousmane Sow] opted for a patina rework similar to the original. This statue is the only existing copy,” she explains in a tweet.

A press release from the town hall quoted by Current values specifies that the sculptor was “not favorable to the ‘simple’ bronzes”, but on the contrary “liked the colors”.

Died in 2016, Ousmane Sow was the first black artist to enter the French Academy of Fine Arts. He now has a place in his name in Paris and a street in Besançon. In 2019, the mayor of Paris Annie Hidalgo inaugurated one of her bronze sculptures, the Couple of hand to hand wrestlerson the Place de Valois near the Louvre.

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