For the last few weeks I’ve been seeing red noses from bus windows and while rushing to class or to meet a friend. I couldn’t decide if I thought they were funny or sad and settled on both. In my imaginings a lone joker with a lot of free time, a bag of noses, and some fancy climbing shoes was prowling the city.
Turns out the truth is not nearly so romantic but perhaps equally quixotic. On November 17th and 18th volunteers spread out across Paris (and other cities and countries) with noses and ladders (and climbing shoes) on behalf of Clowns Without Borders. The noses are supposed to bring attention to the rights of children. I’m not sure how successful the campaign was in that regard but it definitely got me, and many others, to take a second look at some of the thousands of sculptures throughout the city that we pass daily without noticing.
I, of course, fell down the internet rabbit hole attempting to discover a bit about the two red nosed sculptures I’d photographed. I came across an interesting account of La Grisette and her compatriots Les Lorettes over at Invisible Paris. And while I didn’t find anything more about my particular reclining nude than is written on the base of the statue it turns out Hemingway mentions another sculpture* dedicated to Pelletier and Caventou, the discoverers of quinine, in The Sun Also Rises. So I’ve gone from red noses to 19th century kept women to Hemingway. Not exactly what the Clowns and their volunteers had in mind but a worthy outcome nonetheless.
*According to J. Gerald Kennedy on page 113 of Imagining Paris: Exile, Writing, and American Identity this other statue dedicated to Pelletier and Caventou was melted down during WWII.