Six Sculptural Masterpieces in the Streets of Paris

With nearly 1,000 works in public spaces, Paris is a veritable open-air museum where the greatest names in sculpture can be found.

By City of Paris

Directorate of Cultural Affairs

From the top of City hall (2020) by Emilie ChaixCity of Paris

Intimately linked to the urban planning of the capital, the statues eventually become invisible to those who see them every day. Discover the history of six Parisian statues.

Le Triomphe de la République (1878-1899) by Jules DalouCity of Paris

1. The Triumph of the Republic (Le Triomphe de la République)

It took sculptor Jules Dalou 20 years to finish this monument. At its definitive inauguration in 1899, attended by the President of the Republic, it attracted a huge crowd.

Le Triomphe de la République (1878-1899) by Jules DalouCity of Paris

On the Chariot of the Nation, pulled by two lions and guided by the Genius of Liberty brandishing his torch, stand the Republic, light, and triumphant. On either side are Labor, in the guise of a blacksmith, and Justice, pushing the chariot. 

The Dream of a Republic

At the end of the procession, Peace is sowing flowers and fruits of abundance in its path. This monument embodies the dream of the Republic, leading humanity triumphantly towards a free and radiant destiny.

Le Lion de Belfort (1885-1890) by Auguste BartholdiCity of Paris

2. The Lion of Belfort (Le Lion de Belfort)

Auguste Bartholdi, creator of the famous Statue of Liberty, said of his work: "The monument represents a colossal lion, harried, driven back, and still terrible in its fury."

Le Lion de Belfort (1885-1890) by Auguste BartholdiCity of Paris

A menacing air

With a threatening look and its head held high, the half-laying animal is rising up on its forelegs, crushing an enemy arrow under its right paw. This lion commemorates the resistance of the city of Belfort during the war of 1870.

Symbol of the Resistance

Since then, the lion has remained a symbol of the Resistance. On August 25, 1944, General Leclerc entered Paris as a liberator via the avenue that leads to the Lion.

Balzac (1891-1898) by Auguste RodinCity of Paris

3. Balzac

"A block of salt that has been left out in the rain" and "an unwrapped statue" were how newspapers described this statue when it was exhibited in 1898 at the National Society of Fine Arts (Salon de la Société nationale des Beaux-Arts).

Rodin AugusteLIFE Photo Collection

Virulent criticism

The shock was so great and the criticism so virulent that the Society of People of Letters of France (Société des gens de lettres) turned to the sculptor Alexandre Falguière for a more suitable monument. Auguste Rodin died in 1917 without having seen his Balzac made into bronze.

Inauguration 47 years later

It was not until 1938 that, in accordance with the wishes of the Rodin Balzac Committee (Comité du Balzac de Rodin), Paris accepted the donation of the statue so that it could be erected in a public square. On July 1, 1939, Balzac was finally inaugurated at the corner of the boulevards Raspail and Montparnasse. 

Maria Deraismes (1898) by Louis-Ernest BarriasCity of Paris

4. Maria Deraismes

In this piece the Parisian sculptor Louis-Ernest Barrias endeavored to remain faithful to the truth—he drew inspiration from photographs for the facial features and the clothes, which made the rendering highly accurate.

Maria Deraismes (1898) by Louis-Ernest BarriasCity of Paris

Once there was a woman …

Maria Deraismes (1828–1894)—orator, feminist and philosopher—is known for having founded the Masonic Order of Human Rights (l’Ordre Maçonnique du Droit Humain), as well as the Society for the Improvement of a Women's Lot and the Vindication of their Rights.

Maria Deraismes (1898) by Louis-Ernest BarriasCity of Paris

Lost then found

Like many bronze statues in Paris, the monument was melted down during the Occupation by the Vichy Regime. In 1983, a new bronze was produced from a plaster model preserved by the city of Paris and installed in the Square des Epinettes in the 17th arrondissement of the city.

Monument à Gavarni (1902-1904) by Denys PuechCity of Paris

5. Monument to Gavarni (Monument à Gavarni)

This monument, by the sculptor Denys Puech, pays tribute to the illustrator Paul Gavarni (1804–1866) who lived in this part of Paris.

L'Entrée au bal. Ne perdez pas la tête, mon cher!, Number I from the series Souvenirs de Carnaval (after 1840) by Paul GavarniThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Carnival sketch artist

Gavarni, famous for his everyday scenes in which he caricatured human and bourgeois behavior, liked to sketch the Parisian people. His monument reminds us that he specialized in illustrating the Paris Carnival (Carnaval de Paris).


The sculpted decoration represents the festival's characters. Harlequin next to a docker, a woman wearing men's trousers, and a ragged figure holding a stick and a sickle—Death, always present at carnivals.

La Montmartroise (1907) by Théophile CamelCity of Paris

6. The Montmartroise

Presented at the 1906 Salon, where it was met with great success, this piece by the sculptor Théophile Camel was acquired by the city of Paris and unveiled in the Square Carpeaux in 1907.

Two Grisettes Two Grisettes (19th century) by Constantin GuysThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Descendant of the 19th century working-class woman

This elegant young woman is one of the anonymous figures of working-class Paris from the beginning of the 20th century. She represents the starry-eyed girl (une midinette)—textile worker, clothes washer, seamstress, or milliner—often seen in the northern suburbs of Paris and the Tuileries Gardens.

La Montmartroise (1907) by Théophile CamelCity of Paris

A neighborhood figure

She is surrounded by the symbols of her neighborhood—the windmill on the drum and the painter's palette. Bunches of roses and a cherub add to the charm of this piece.

Credits: Story

Directorate of Cultural Affairs

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