Each French president gets to choose an illustration of ‘La Marianne’ for the stamp decorations and this tradition goes back nearly 50 years. Marianne was not a real person but has become a symbol of the French revolution and of freedom, providing inspiration for countless statues, sculptures and paintings. In 1830, painter Eugene Delacroix depicted a bare-breasted Marianne brandishing a tricolor flag and leading her people over the bodies of the fallen in his famous painting “Liberty Leading the People”. Many iconic French women, actresses, singers and models have previously inspired the Marianne. We can count amongst them Brigitte Bardot, Ines De Fressange, Laeticia Casta and Catherine Deneuve.
The new stamp depicts a youthful Marianne, a symbol of the French republic, wearing a Phrygian conical cap but does not show her topless and was chosen by high-school students.
The image on the stamp, co-created by French artist and gay-rights activist Olivier Ciappa and illustrator David Kowena, was also influenced by Renaissance art, French comic strips and even the graphic novels of Japanese manga. Ciappa told Agence France-Presse that he thinks Shevchenko is an appropriate model for the stamp since the mythical Marianne would have been a member of FEMEN if such an organization had existed in her time. (It is instructive to note that Shevchenko and her fellow FEMEN cohorts often topless during their well-orchestrated public protests).