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Piëta's on French First World War Monuments

Fotographs made by Waldemar Ysebaert

Dutch journalist/photographer WaldemarYsebaert is a passionate photographer of French World War One monuments (Monuments Aux Morts). This photo show presents pictures in which he focuses on grief and loss. It shows several statues based on the Piëta, an art form of the Renaissance, which have Mother Mary and the dead Christ as subject. Artists translated the theme into mourning widows and mothers holding their beloved one, killed in the Great War.

Arques (Pas-de-Calais) More than 36.000 French communities erected a
war monument to remember those who fell in the Great War.

Péronne (Somme) Even farmers sons from the Pyrenees couldn't escape the call to
do their duty in the muddy trenches in the north of France.

Chaumuzy (Marne) The names on the monuments are in alphabetical order.
The year in which the victim deceased is sometimes added.

Azannes-et-Soumazannes (Meuse) In the 19th century and the beginning of the
20th century women played an allegoric role in French sculpture.
This type of sculpture inspired artists who were commissioned to build war monuments.

Quillon (Aude)

St. Floris (Pas-de-Calais) Also ordinary women, especially widows,
got a prominent place on the socles to worship their husbands.

Sillery (Marne) The painful reality almost left no space to honour heroism, courage and victory.

Péronne (Somme) Some sculptors, like Paul Auban, gave their monuments a taste of hatred and anger.

Langres (Haute-Marne) The artists chose a classical approach.

Laventie (Pas-de-Calais) You can categorize war monuments in all kinds of ways.
Many monuments represent the Piëta. A dead or dying soldier held by
a mourning wife or mother. A pietà is inspired by the mother Mary and the dead Christ.

Aire-sur-la-Lys (Pas-de-Calais)

Belcaire (Aude)

Stenay (Meuse)

Roquemare (Gard) Sometimes a victorious angel replaces the widow or mother.

Signy-sur-l'Abbeye (Ardennes) Marianne, symbol of the French Republic, suspended in the air.

Steenwerck (Nord) The Steenwerck monument shows a dramatic scene. Soldiers in full combat
stumble over each other

Steenwerck (Nord) Monuments show the soldier's courage, their patriotism, but also their pain,
struggle and defeat.

Paris (Ville-de-Paris) The French Adrian helmet (Casque Adrian) as a symbol
of the fallen soldier.

La Targette (Pas-de-Calais) A pietà representing two soldiers. The monument in has been
erected for Czech volunteers.

Vimy (Pas-de-Calais) Because of its size and architecture one of the most impressive war monuments
in France. It's erected on the Vimy Ridge. The front of the Monument commémoratif du Canada is
dominated by a mourning woman.

Vimy (Pas-de-Calais) Group of statues entitled: sympathy for the victims.
Part of the Vimy monument.

Verdun (Meuse) In 1916 the Dutch department of the Union of Neutral Countries
commissioned Auguste Rodin to make a sculpture for the glory of France.

Nomeny (Meurthe-et-Moselle) Several monuments do not only
commemorate military casualties, but also civilian victims.

Nomeny (Meurthe-et-Moselle)

Saint-Geniez-d'Olt (Aveyron) No doubt that Catholic communities would like to
decorate their monuments with a religious cross (notice the woman embracing a cross).

Rethel (Argonne) The monuments are empty, the dead are buried in local and war cemeteries.

Oberhaslach (Bas-Rhin) Pietà in the the Bas-Rhin department.

Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin) The monument of Strasbourg, on the Place de la République
can be considered as an effort tot reconcile France and Germany.

Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin)

Arques (Pas-de-Calais) Citizens take no notice of the war monument on market day.
The merchants build their stands around it.

                       Check out the books Aux Morts and Aux Poilus by Waldemar Ysebaert:
                                              Aux morts 1914-1918 / Aux Poilus 1914-1918


© 2009 - Waldemar Ysebaert. The copyright of above photographs rests with the  photographer.  Complete or partial reproduction requires explicit consent in writing from WaldemarYsebaert.  

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