The Invisible Man

August 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

La place LéonBlum, Paris 75011

It seems that I walk through Place Léon Blum almost every day. Of course it just so happens that he is a fascinating personnage in twentieth-century French political, cultural, social and Jewish history, so I am also often coming across him in my research. However, I do not think any of that explains why this is one of my favorite statues in Paris. There is something a bit mysterious about it. Such as, what is he wearing? Any photograph I have seen of M. Blum shows him looking very elegant in a dapper three-piece suit. This appears to be some sort of long winter coat or cape, somewhat reminiscent, come to think of it, of the robe that Rodin was forced to use to cover up his controversial sculpture of Balzac.

But back to Blum. I love the choppy, unfinished base, the windblown scarf and hair, the movement in the lines of the smooth stone, the way he is looking inquisitively down and off to the side, rather than aggressively facing the world in some challenging stance, the way that so many men of power are depicted. These unusual elements seem fitting with my idea of the man, strong and confident, brilliant and accomplished, yet holding a somewhat ambiguous place in France history and thought. I often feel that there is something invisible about this M. Blum, that I am the only one that notices him as I walk by. Though his square is often crowded with somewhat dubious characters drinking and soliciting, others do not really seem to linger. I am often tempted as there are benches and many trees providing lovely shade from the sun and the cars zooming by on all sides.

I do not really know what the French think of Blum today, if they do at all. Nor have I looked up the creator of this sculpture, the year it was installed in the streets of Paris, or any other contextual information which I’m sure would be quite useful to my understanding of it. For the moment I am quite to content to find myself passing him by so often, sometimes smiling, because I feel that I am sharing some kind of secret with him, sometimes sad because I feel that he deserves better.


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