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  • Writer's pictureJameson Farn

Apollo, The Nude Statue in Nice

Many visitors year-round to the city of Nice tend to notice the Apollo statue in the heart of the city, but do they know the significance of this beautiful piece of art?

It may sound like an odd subject, a statue in yet another square of France but the Apollo statue at Place Massena in Nice comes with a short but interesting history.

And frankly, given the current cancel culture, the Apollo statue might not happen at all these days.

The statue is a must-see yet can’t-miss white marble sculpture in what is considered the heart of the city of Nice at Place Massena and amongst other works of public art, the parks, historic architecture, and tons of boutiques at the edge of Vieux Nice.

First erected at the Sun Fountain (Fountaine du Soleil) in Nice and surrounded by 5 bronze sculptures in the basin that represent: Earth, Mars, Saturn, Mercury, and Venus, the impressive marble statue of Apollo made his appearance in 1956.

Apollo stands 7 meters (23 feet) tall, weighs 7 tons, and commands your attention. And in this case, it is the one thing the statute immediately received, except this was the wrong kind of attention at the time of its unveiling.

Apollo according to mythology is to carry the sun across the sky and be pulled on a chariot by four horses. This Apollo though had no chariot but four horses on his head forming a type of crown.

At first, onlookers nicknamed the sculpture “the 4 horsepower statue” claiming it reminded them of a popular automobile advertisement at the time, the Renault 4CV.

What garnered even more attention to Apollo was the claim by some conservative locals that the nude sculpture’s penis was far too large, yet curiously enough some older women actually thought it was too small and college students regularly started decorating it as a prank.

The new focal point of the city had now caused a full-on scandal which meant the artist in charge of the sculpture, Alfred Janniot, was told to chisel the masculine attributes down to a more appropriate size. Being 4 times the size of a regular man, his penis was naturally super-sized and still caught the eye.

So after many years of being a local joke, mocked, and routinely vandalized, in 1979, a women’s Catholic group succeeded in having Apollo dethroned and moved to a football stadium in the North part of Nice and out of sight of most tourists.

Meanwhile what was left of the location of the statue seemed to lack any tourism interest and was yet just another fountain in a French city that after time slowly went into disrepair.

Fast forward to 2007, with the area of Place Massena going through a huge redevelopment with the new public tram line system and park. A local reporter wrote a nostalgic piece about the Sun Fountain which the general public took an interest in and with that the fountain was reborn with the bronze statues back at the basin but the impressive Apollo statue was still not allowed yet to return.

As beautiful as the fountain was once again, it still seemed to be missing something but thankfully a few years later in 2011, Apollo was cleaned up and reinstated to his rightful place at the center of the fountain, proudly on display surveying the area and a true centerpiece of the city lending to it being the perfect meeting point for locals and tourists around.

It just goes to show, you can’t keep a good man down.


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