Beaumarchais

This bronze statue of the playwright Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799), the author of The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro, among other plays, is on display in Paris at the corner of Rue Saint-Antoine and the Rue des Tournelles, in the 4th arrondissement near Place de la Bastille. Perhaps someone can tell me what he is holding in his left hand? To me, it looks like a rod, pipe, tube or horn, but it must be something quite important, otherwise the sculptor wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of sculpting it.

The sculptor, in this case, was Louis Clausade (1865–1899), who was commissioned by the city of Paris. He completed the statue in 1895.

Inscription at the base of the statue

Usually when a new statue was set up there would be a big inauguration ceremony with lots of speeches, but in this case someone remembered that Beaumarchais was not only a famous author, but also an adventurer and speculator who had become very wealthy through obscure business dealings. Since corruption was a sensitive issue in the 1890s, it was eventually decided to avoid possible controversy and set up the statue as inconspicuously as possible, without any ceremony, so as to honor the author but not the speculator.

Somehow the statue survived the Nazi occupation of Paris during the Second World War (1940-1944), when many bronze statues were melted down for use in weapons production. Nobody knows why the Nazis left him standing, since Beaumarchais (despite his somewhat dubious financial dealings) was well known as a progressive thinker in his day. Nothing in his writings bears any resemblance to Nazi ideology.

The statue was removed much later, in 2009, but only because of construction works which lasted for over a year. It was returned to its place in the autumn of 2010.

I have mentioned Beaumarchais in various other places, particularly in my post on the Théâtre Espace Marais. This is a small theater on rue Beautreillis, just a couple blocks from the Beaumarchais statue. Once I went there and saw a lively production of his play Le mariage de Figaro, on which Mozart’s opera Le nozze di Figaro was based.

Also I have mentioned Beaumarchais in my post on the Père Lachaise Cemetery, because I think I might have found his grave there, but only maybe.

My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on Le Marais in Paris.
See more sculpture posts. 

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