Information on Belle Poule

Belle Poule
Bronze and Stainless Steel on Green Marble
Artist Proof

This piece started as a bust of a woman from the Rococco period. Then
I found a drawing I made in Australia 15 years earlier of a woman from
that era holding a mask in front of her face, as they did at costume
balls.The face on the mask was smiling sweetly, her real face hiding
behind this facade was calculating. Her other arm hides another mask
with a weeping face behind her back.
While doing research into the hairstyles of the time I found one where
the woman had a ship in her hair.
I read up on the time period leading to the French Revoloution and
found out what the ship in the hair was about ; in 1778 the "Belle
Poule" defeated the English ship "Arethusa" in a well publicized
battle. This launched the coiffure "Belle Poule" in which aristocratic
women dressed their hair with model ships bobbing on waves of powdered
hair to celebrate naval victories.France had lost Quebec to England
in 1759 and they weren't very happy about that. In 1779 the
"La Surveillante" sailed out of Brest and ran into an English ship named
the "Quebec" (adding insult to injury). The two ships proceeded to
blast each other to bits for six and a half hours until the English
ship blew up.Another naval victory to celebrate.
"Belle Poule" means "pretty hen"
A wave motif around the top of her dress would conclude the bottom of
the piece. I put a Leviathan under the wave ; if she were to look down
she could not see this monster lurking just beneath the surface.
Rarely in history have women ruled a nation so
completely as they did in France in the 18th century."Everything
depends on her" said the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau of the
woman of his time."Nothing is done except by her or for her". Women
assumed this power by default of LouisXV's pleasure seeking court and
an aristocracy which was too dissolute to pay attention to the real
activity of the moment; the ferment of ideas stirring all of Europe.By
controling the nation's intellectual life as well as its affairs
of state,aristocratic women cast France in their own
image - exquisite, quick witted, fun-loving and deceptive. No society
was ever more delightful, or cultivated so brillintly the seeds, of
its own destruction.