Who is Foch ?
An iconic figure of French history, Ferdinand Foch (1851—1929) distinguished himself as the military leader of the Allies, achieving victory in World War I. On August 7, 1918, Foch was given the title of Marshal of France, the highest French military distinction.
Funéraille du maréchal Foch, le cortège place de la Concorde (March 26, 1929) by AnonymousMusée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
Ferdinand Foch died on March 20, 1929. Six days later, a state funeral was held, bringing together a huge crowd to pay their respects to one of the heroes of the Great War.
On June 11, 1931, the French State commissioned Paul Landowski to create Foch's tomb. After two years of reflection, the sculptor worked for six years on the construction of the tomb. On March 20, 1937, the anniversary of his death, Ferdinand Foch's tomb was inaugurated in the Dôme des Invalides. His remains were transferred to the Saint-Ambroise chapel.
Move closer and take a look at the floor first. See this great crown that combines oak leaves, a symbol of wisdom and eternity, with the laurel of victory.
It is punctuated with medallions that commemorate key moments of World War I.
Tombeau du maréchal Foch Vue latérale gaucheMusée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
You are now in front of the left side bas-relief. This side evokes both the technical war and its new weapons, as well as troops from the colonies.
With their simplified but easily recognizable shapes, you can see a Renault FT 17 tank and a Schneider tank. It is often said that World War I "began with the smell of horse manure and ended with the smell of gasoline," to illustrate the motorization of the army gradually took place.
In front of the tank, two Spahi cavalrymen (light-cavalry regiments of the French army recruited primarily from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco) are dressed in the traditional burnous (large, hooded woolen cloak), and guennour headdress. Spahi units fought for the French army from as early as 1914.
Now let's take a look at the rear side of the sarcophagus. At the bottom, three marshal's batons obtained during or after World War I are depicted (from left to right): one each from Great Britain, France, and Poland. They were received in 1919, 1918, and 1923 respectively.
Tombeau du maréchal Foch Vue latérale droiteMusée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
This right side panel focuses on the more traditional warfare when artillery was still being pulled by horses. With their heads bowed, the troops as a whole convey an impression of movement and tenacity.
Tombeau du maréchal Foch Vue de faceMusée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
The front side reveals Landowski's passion for mythology with the Apotheosis of Foch, the hero's admission among the gods.
Foch is shown on horseback, wearing a uniform and holding his marshal's baton. Above him, the winged goddess Victory places a laurel wreath on his head, as a symbol of his triumph.
Personifications of fame announce the marshal's arrival. A winged deity, Fame is always carrying a trumpet to spread rumors or announce glory, but more importantly to immortalize heroes by honoring their memory.
Now, let's focus on these impressive soldiers. Landowski chose to depict eight of them to carry Foch's remains. If you zoom in on their Adrian helmets, you will recognize the emblem of the artillery where Ferdinand Foch himself was trained.
"My soldiers are solemn, focused. … There is no allegory. This is a genuine scene, hence its nobility, emotion, and gravity."—Landowski, 1943
Foch is portrayed in a realistic way, as a recumbent resting on a stretcher covered with laurel. Wearing his uniform, he holds a sword in his right hand. Because it is positioned high up, the marshal's face is inaccessible and hidden from everyone.
A story written and edited by the teams of the Army Museum.
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