One photo a day until I meet Jonathan Harris

6th June

Gandhi or Che Guevara?

Passing by on my way to a job, I wondered whom these girls having fun in front of the Opéra Garnier would have preferred. It was clear they were all pretty enamoured with the lucky guy in the middle, whatever his ideals. As I was to discover later however, the happy situation that the smiling tambourine player occupies is just the start of his good fortune.

When the sculpture created by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux was first installed in 1867 there was public outcry and calls for its removal. Fathers refused to take their wives and children to an establishment that seemed to endorse such scandalous imagery. Bizarrely, it was the young girls of the Opera's ballet company who first came to the rescue, organising and signing a petition in the sculpture's defence.

Two years later though, the debate was still raging and the sculpture was badly vandalised when someone threw a pot of black ink over it. Napoleon III was just about to order it removed when the Franco-Prussian War broke out. Paris subsequently fell to the German's who obviously didn't have a huge problem with it. By the time things got back to normal I guess the Parisians had either grown used to it, or forgotten what they were so upset about.

I can't work out whether a tambourine is closer to a rifle or a walking stick, but maybe the moral of the story is that when it comes to survival, chance plays a much more important role than ideals.