The Masonic Marianne
Jean-Philippe Hübsch, Grand Master of the GODF, gave President Macron, Tuesday, September 4, 2018, on the occasion of the meal organized at the Elysée Palace with the Grand Masters of the Masonic obediences, a copy of the Marianne Maçonnique of Jacques France.
This is an honorary gesture that has been enjoyed by other personalities such as Robert Badinter and Simone Veil.
This is an opportunity to come back to this freemason sculptor who did not have a very easy life trajectory and whose work alone explains his notoriety.
His real name was Paul Lecreux and he was born in Lille around 1826.
He was initiated in 1881 in the Polar Star Lodge, from the GODF to the East of Paris .
In 1881, ten years after the creation and the failure of the Paris Commune, it still appears as a mythical dream, full of hope!
That same year, Paul Lecreux, alias Jacques France, completed the realization of this bust of Marianne decorated with Masonic symbols, which was officially inaugurated during a meeting in the Respectable Lodge La Bonne foi à l'orient of Saint Germain en Laye, under the name of The Masonic Republic.
Paul Lecreux's motivations are not well known but it seems that this work was dedicated to Brother Rodolphe Burges who would have given it to his mother lodge "La Réunion des amis choisis" in the east of Béziers. "There are two versions of the Marianne de Jacques France, the first with a master mason's cord decorated with Masonic symbols, the second with three important dates in the history of the Republic, 1789, 1848, 1870." (source https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Lecreux)
Still, it was a success and the work became the symbol of the Third Republic; it was reproduced in hundreds of copies if not more! The Republicans of the Third Republic took it over and it adorned all the official places.
But let's come back to the life of Paul Lecreux: born in Lille in a family of the upper middle class, his father being one of the spinning entrepreneurs, it seems that he had a golden childhood but that his artistic temperament did not predispose him to get involved in the family business.
We find him in Paris, where he seems to have benefited from the family help, but without having a memorable artistic production. He turned out to be quarrelsome, familiar with the courts, addicted to absinthe and ether, and ended his life in dementia at the age of 68 (in 1894) by committing suicide by hanging himself. (see the press article opposite).
All in all, it is not uninteresting to see that the Grand Masters of the GODF still use this work, symbol of the Third Republic, to honour personalities; this shows how much this myth of a "Masonic" Republic still haunts the consciences!
A beautiful sculptural work, this bust has become a symbol that is at once touching, ridiculous and passé:
It is touching because it sends us back to this brother whose life bears witness to deep suffering, but who had a flash of genius in carrying out a work that marked his time;
ridiculous because in 2018, under our Fifth Republic, how can we give credibility to a Third Republic that has not left only good memories?
Passéiste because this symbol represents a desire with no other interest than to make us dream of a dead end: who, today, can give meaning to a "Masonic" Republic?
Today, some people want to make it the symbol of secularism: this is of course their right, but it does not correspond to the sculptor's intentions!
Wouldn't it be time for a contemporary artist to create a work capable of symbolizing all the values of our Masonic ideal?
- History of the North Star Lodge
Centenary Edition Publisher, 1939
- The North Star Lodge:
150 years of Batignolles (and even more) the life and highlights of the history of a
Lodge: 1766 - 1839 - 1989
Paperback - 1989
Jacques France (Paul Lecreux), 1887.
Bronze, 900 x 600 x 500 mm
Paris, Museum of Freemasonry. Inv. Num. St.026
Museum of Freemasonry
Drawing of the Masonic version of the bust of the Republic dedicated by Le F... Lecreux (Jacques France) to his Ven... & old friend Rodophe Burges. The latter, republican journalist and dignitary of the Grand Orient, offered it to his "mother lodge", La Réunion des amis choisis, in Béziers.
The Marianne de Jacques France was one of the most popular busts of the Republic. It became the classic effigy of French democracy under the Third Republic and decorated for decades the town halls of large, medium and small towns of our "Sweet France" ...
Originally, it was a commission for an old and important lodge in the Paris region: La Bonne Foi, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. It was in January 1881 that its venerable master (president) asked the sculptor and brother Paul Lecreux (Jacques France is his artist's name) to make a bust of the effigy of the Republic for a party that the lodge organizes the following month. After some hesitation, the sculptor took up the challenge, and the work was solemnly presented on February 24, 1881. It was appreciated and quickly successful in the Masonic community. It was first officially adopted by the Grand Orient de France, January 9, 1882, then by many of its lodges. But the masons are numerous among the cadres of the Republican Party, the idea came to design a non-Masonic version for use by municipal institutions.
The period is not indifferent: in 1881, after the final failure of Mac-Mahon and the government of a moral order" (1877), the Republican Party gradually takes power at all levels of the country, from Parliament to small municipalities through the general councils. Jacques France thus carries out a second version of his Marianne where the Masonic symbols are replaced by the great dates of the Republic: 1789, 1848 and 1870. Under the presidency of old Victor Hugo, a Central Committee of busts of the Republic is formed in 1882. It includes all the great names of the Republican Party, including many masons: Emmanuel Arago, Louis Blanc, Jean Macé, Camille Pelletan, Frédéric Desmons, Gustave Mesureur ...
The Committee brings together the Ligue de l'enseignement, the Anticlerical Congress and, of course, the Grand Orient de France. Departmental committees are then created. An active propaganda campaign was then launched to disseminate this "admirable bust of the Republic. This emblem [which] was immediately acclaimed as representing better than any other precedent, the image of the Republic as we desire it; noble and proud, smiling gently to all its children. ...] It is important that every lodge, every town and every commune in France should soon have the bust of our Republic, symbol of the love of freedom and communal initiative. "This momentum [...] will constitute a true republican plebiscite", adds the letter, widely distributed by the Central Committee. The success of Jacques France's Marianne de Jacques France symbolically accompanies the political work of the Republican Party aimed at rooting democratic ideals in the heart of France.