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This statue to the great French playwright Moliėre, one of the great comic-writers of all time and described by Stendahl as “Molière, the great painter of man”, is to be found in the town of Pézenas in the Langudoc-Rousillon area of France, where he lived for many years. He had an acting troupe which worked in both Paris and Pézenas and had as patron, the brother of the King, the Duke of Orleans.
He led an extraordinary life and his death became legend; he died on stage, while performing his final play, Le Malade Imaginaire, or rather, he collapsed on stage, and died a few hours later at his home. At that time, the Catholic church in France condemned the theatre as a school for scandal, held all actors to be ipso facto excommunicated, and forbade their burial in consecrated ground – which included every cemetery in Paris. Two priests refused to visit him to administer the sacraments and the third arrived too late.
The white marble statue was sculpted by Jean-Antoine Injalbert in 1897 and it shows the maid Lucette from Moliere’s play Monsieur de Pourceaugnac paying tribute to the master playwright with a goat-footed satyr representing Satire sitting at the bottom of the statue. Masks of the actors Coquelin Cadet and Jeanne Ludwig are on the back of the monument
In 1792 his remains were brought to the Museum of French monuments and in 1817 transferred to Le Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.
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6 thoughts on “Sculpture Saturday in Pézenas”
What a wonderful word houghmagandie is. I’m trying to work out how I can casually slip it into a conversation but it might be difficult. Love Liz Lochhead.
Le Malade Imaginaire brings back memories of A Level French, though I didn’t know the story of his death. My fondest memory is of Tartuffe hilariously translated into Scots by Liz Lochhead. The first time I learned the wonderful word houghmagandie (fornication).
The problem faced by artists in creating memorials to a famous person is that they have to produce something that identifies the subject and his or her achievements while at the same time making an original work of art. The sort of trouble that this can lead to is well shown by the fuss over Maggi Hambling’s memorial to Mary Wolstoncraft. Who’d want to be a sculptor of memorials, eh? 🙂
I think that Antoine Injalbert has made a reasonable though not exceptional attempt in his Molière memorial, given for the age in which he was working. I quite like the Pirandelloesque trope of the author and one of his characters momentarily sharing the same reality.
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I agree with you. Who’d want to be a sculptor of anything these days especially where public money is involved. The town of Pézenas has done well out of its connection with the great man though, it seems you can attach the name Molière to just about anything there – and sell it.
What a sad ending for him, but at least he died doing what he loved. I don’t know his works at all, Mari. It’s one of those names that struck fear to my breast in French lessons at school. But it’s a great statue 🙂 🙂
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I didn’t do French at school so I came to his plays in translation at the National when I lived in London and I loved them. I’ve been a theatre fan all my life and even though I live in the Isle of Wight I still managed regular trips to the city and to Chichester so I missed very little of what I consider importance. As for the church’s attitude …. words fail me but thankfully the French government saw fit to right a wrong.