October 17, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A monumental statue of the Virgin Mary with unborn babies at her feet has sparked controversy in the French Riviera town of Menton, near Nice, where it was erected at the end of September in a location that is in full view of passersby. The bronze statue, La Vierge aux innocents, shows Our Lady lovingly leaning with open hands towards the bodies of seven lifeless babies. The local family planning association, claiming the statue was “anti-abortion,” staged a protest and is asking the local mayor to have the work removed.
Daphné du Barry, a famed Dutch sculptress who met her now-deceased husband, Jean-Claude du Barry, in the atelier of Salvador Dalí, told LifeSiteNews that her work would not be removed as it was erected on private property belonging to the Grand Hôtel des Ambassadeurs in Menton, whose owner, Liana Marabini, commissioned the Vierge aux Innocents. Du Barry’s full interview with LifeSite is below.
On October 7 – feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – a group of feminist demonstrators including a topless woman with her body painted purple staged a mock inauguration of the statue, renamed “Our Lady of the Freedom of Choice” to which a purple veil had been added, while the babies’ heads were covered with pink cloths.
The demonstration followed a campaign by the local family planning association denouncing the way “art is used to make women feel guilty” about abortion. Du Barry rejected this claim, saying she wanted to “raise awareness” about the “beauty of life” and the sadness of losing a baby before birth for whatever reason, and that the statue’s message is one of “compassion” and “consolation.”
The French national media picked up the story, with a clear bias against the Catholic artist and against Liana Marabini, an Italian patroness of the arts who has organized Catholic film and art exhibitions and produced a number of films, including Shades of Truth that aims to render justice to the memory of Pope Pius XII.
Daphne du Barry is well known for her many bronze sculptures and drawings in the classical style, which include many “secular” works celebrating the beauty of the human body. She has increasingly turned towards religious themes over the years: monumental crucifixes, Saint John the Baptist, Hildegard of Bingen, Charles de Foucauld.
Her “Baptism of King Clovis by Saint Remigius” was presented near the cathedral of Reims during Pope John Paul II’s visit to France in 1996 that marked the 1,500th anniversary of the event. At the time, Daphné du Barry received a personal blessing from John Paul II for the work and for her person.
Below is the full interview of Daphné du Barry with LifeSite:
LifeSiteNews: Daphne du Barry, you have created a very beautiful and monumental statue which you have called: “The Virgin of the Innocents.” You made it for a lady from Menton, who recently had it erected permanently in her garden in full view of the public. What is the meaning of this statue?
Daphné du Barry: I’ve had this project in my mind for about ten years. I had made a model, and last year I received an inner locution from the Virgin Mary: “Now, you must make the monument.” Well, so be it! Fiat voluntas tua… I decided to go ahead. I was delighted, it really gave me wings. Whether by chance or by fate, I happened to speak about it to Liana Marabini, who owns a large hotel in Menton and who was in the process of organizing the first Biennial of sacred contemporary art to be held there. When I told her about this monument that I wanted to start right away, she was very interested and she told me that she wanted to be its sponsor. She asked for the monumental statue to be made for her first Biennal [it opened on October 1 and will run until the end of the month]. I was thrilled and started work straight away, and now the Virgin of the Innocents is in front of the Grand Hôtel des Ambassadeurs in Menton. As it is private property, a small front garden that belongs to this luxury hotel, the Virgin could be placed there and I am very happy about it. At last this monument has been born!
LSN: This statue shows Our Lady with dead children at her feet, who are clearly unborn because they still have their umbilical cords.
DdB: There are seven of them. There are seven continents, and in addition the number seven is very symbolic: it represents spiritual awakening. For the Egyptians, it was a symbol of eternal life. There are also the seven days of the week, the seven notes of the diatonic scale, the seven wonders of the world, the seven degrees of perfection: it is a sacred number, and for me, the seven children and the seven continents are very linked. These babies have their umbilical cord[s] to show that the child without the mother dies. For whatever reason, these children could not be born, or were not wanted. This monument puts you in front of a very hard reality that is almost unbearable, difficult to see and to accept.
I created this work as an act of love and compassion. When I made this statue I prayed so much to the Virgin: I was on my knees, I really cried for each child I was modeling, I shed tears of helplessness because I knew that these children would never see the light of day. But it is important to know that this statue was created to make women – but also men – aware that life is precious, that it is sacred.
This monument does not carry any judgment, absolutely not. It represents the Virgin bowing towards these children who were never born. She embraces them, she welcomes them in her mercy. Because the Virgin is only love, she does not judge, she suffers, she weeps, but she does not condemn. She represents mercy, compassion, consolation: she takes care of her little children.
LSN: The compassion you mention is of course for the children, for those children who should have been born, but it seems to me that it is also for their mothers?
DdB: Of course, of course! There are mothers who wanted a child that never saw the light, that could not be born, and that is dramatic. There are also young mothers who may have done it under pressure, from the family or husband who may not have wanted it or who were not ready, what do I know… I don’t even want to know. But I think it’s something very hard because I think that for the women who commit this act, we never think about the psychological consequences. I have known young women who have done it and who bitterly regret it, something we do not realize. We say: “Ah, but it’s nothing, a child at three months is nothing at all.” But it’s not like that, you know. Here, I really want to put everyone in front of reality. Without judgment, none at all, that’s clear.
LSN: Despite yourself, your work has sparked controversy, with the very hateful reaction of feminist groups. What happened?
DdB: Unfortunately, someone mentioned “repentance.” This word is not mine, because who are we to speak like that? It should be avoided because women, I think, are already suffering enough. There was an outcry, which I certainly did not want. But you know, they’ll always find an excuse for attacking.
People think that this statue is a statue against abortion, whereas it is not at all that. I have a very different approach. For me, this monument must raise awareness so that women realize that life is a gift from God, life is sacred. It’s nothing else. It has been badly misinterpreted, and so it has indeed caused an outcry from the Family Planning Association of Menton. They came and they protested.
No one is disputing laws. We can agree or disagree: obviously, I can’t agree, as a Catholic. But there are laws that exist and this monument is certainly not against these laws. It aims to raise awareness. I made this monument in an act of love for all these children, and for the women too, for the mothers of these children. This has nothing to do with a protest against laws, absolutely not. You can’t attack a work of art, and it’s a work of art.
LSN: The Virgin of the Innocents is still outside the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs in Menton. So she won’t be moved?
DdB: Mrs. Marabini has a lot of courage: she herself was terribly attacked, and wrongly so, but she said no, this monument will remain there because the place is private. It overlooks the street, so you can get close to it, but it is a small private garden and so there is nothing you can do against this. She has a lot of courage because she loves this Virgin, she loves her message, and she has decided that she will stay there.
LSN: Are there any existing copies of the work, or will you make more copies?
DdB: My intention is to make more, because I created it so that lives can be saved. That is my goal. So of course I would be delighted to make more. I would even like, God willing, to make an even bigger statue, even twice as big, so that it would really become something very important, a great place of pilgrimage, perhaps even for the United States. God will do what He wants, and the Virgin will of course do what she wants: she will help me. It would be my hope, of course, that this monument should see the light of day elsewhere.
LSN: Where did you create this work?
In Tuscany, where I have my foundry. People can contact me via the Internet (and of course come to see me). I also made a model of this same work, which is 40 centimeters high, with the Virgin Mary and the seven children. It’s a bronze model that I can make again.
Du Barry can be contacted via www.daphne-dubarry.com or by emailing [email protected]