La Danse by the sculptor Carpeaux

La Danse is one of the most famous sculptures in Paris!

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux sculpted it in 1869.

La Danse sculpture by Carpeaux - Opera de Paris
La Danse sculpture by Carpeaux – Opera de Paris

La Danse is one of four allegorical groups that adorn the facade of the Opéra Garnier.

François Jouffroy sculpted L’Harmonie also known as Poétrie (Harmony – Poetry), Jean-Baptiste Claude Eugène Guillaume sculpted the Musique Instrumentale (Instrumental Music) and Jean-Joseph Perraud the Drame Lyrique (Lyrical Drama).

These four sculptures are all outstanding, however, La Danse became famous because it was the centre of a mini scandal at the time of its creation.

La Danse indeed represents a young man who smiles and plays the tambourine and is surrounded by lively young female dancers.

There is nothing unusual in this theme, except that all the figures are represented naked.

This provoked an outcry!

Opera Garnier in Paris
Opera Garnier in Paris

You have to imagine yourself in the Puritan society of 1869.

Many shocked fathers complained that such a sculpture was not only damaging the reputation of the theatre, but it was also indecent and could upset their innocent daughters.

They therefore refused to take their daughters to the Opera Garnier, as long as the sculptural group stood on the facade, and demanded its immediate removal.

Napoleon III was ready to give in, however, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 broke out and settled the polemic.

The Emperor abdicated, the Prussians invaded Paris and the civil war, known as the Paris Commune, broke out.

There was no time left for ridiculous arguments.

The sculpture remained in place, however, was transferred to the Orsay Museum in the late 20th century.

A superb replica has since replaced it on the facade of the Opéra Garnier.

Directions: 9th DistrictPlace de l’Opéra
Metro: Opéra on Lines 3, 7, 8
Coordinates Opera Garnier: Lat 48.871934 – Long 2.331767

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