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Tuesday, 18 November 2003
de mauvais gout

garden decorations

I took this photo of what I suppose to be garden decorations on Route de Bitche, Haguenau.  The scene is dominated by a naked woman, painted in a dull copper colour. She is holding a dove in one up stretched hand. At her feet are a dog and a rooster. She looms over a miniature windmill, on the other side of which is a lion.  This is all conveniently located at a traffic light, in good view of on-coming traffic which has to stop when the light is red. The owners of the house have thoughtfully removed some of the fencing in front of the property, which facilitates a better view for passing motorists (such as myself).  These items have appeared over time, starting about 18 months ago with the naked lady.  Evidently some thought is going into this decorative project. Clearly these objects mean something significant to the owner of the house. What can these symbols represent? 

The naked woman perhaps represents a state of innocence or purity.  The flower design on the base of her plinth suggests love and peace.  This message is affirmed by the bird (probably a dove) that she is holding aloft in her left hand. Doves generally denote a peaceful nature or condition. They can also represent love and inner tenderness, as well as a spiritual initiation.  In India, the dove is the symbol of the soul while in China it is a symbol of marital fidelity.  It can also be a sign of fertility.  Note that the woman�s right hand is held over her belly, suggestively. The rooster at her feet could suggest cheekiness and aggression. It is also the national bird of France. It is not the national bird of Alsace, which is the Stork. However, to follow on with the general theme suggested by the other symbols, another interpretation of the rooster could be that it denotes �awakening� (of ideas and spirituality). 

The dog, seated at the feet of the woman, surely represents friendship and love, as well as loyalty and fidelity.  Besides being a friend, a dog can also be a guide, protector or helper.  The final animal, some distance away is a male lion. Although it is resting here, a lion generally denotes an aggressive and emotionally erratic being.  It is significant that the lion is male, because male lions tend to also be lazy (whereas female lions, as the hunters of the pack, represent the strength and patience of a provider).  Male lions can also be seen as individualistic and selfish.  Lions are also symbols of fear and danger, and this comes to mind given the distance between the lion and the woman, even though the lion is disproportionately small next to the woman. 

Finally the windmill: The image of the wind itself is invoked by this symbol. The wind is a powerful symbol of energy and spirit. The windmill harnesses that energy, and is a symbol of industriousness and the historical accumulation of wealth. 

Of course all symbols are subjective and I have no way of knowing what these objects specifically represent to the owners of this house.  Either one chooses to see these statues as tacky (de mauvais go�t) or as having some meaning (emotional and symbolic) for the people who put them there.  For most of the past two years I have regarded these symbols as an indication of the homeowner�s bad taste. Today�s blog has been an attempt by me to look beyond my prejudices to find meaning in them.

P.S. Note the �ladder-like� snow-catcher on the roof of the house, which is common around here. They are to prevent injury when the snow melts and slides off the roof. They work, as long as the snow is not too deep. I seem to remember that in some places in Eastern Europe the snow fell 2 metres deep last winter.  Some people still died when the snow slid off their roof and onto them.

Posted by bigblue on 18/11/2003 at 12:05 AM
Filed under: France • (1) CommentsPermalinkBookmark or Share

I gave Anna Sofia a lift to work on 18 Nov, and as we drove past the woman I asked her what she thought of it and what it signified. She said that she also found it tasteless, and laughed the first time she noticed it. She mentioned that she saw the woman as a symbol of freedom.

Posted by bigblue  on  20/11/2003  at  12:22 AM

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