Académie des Beaux-Arts
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The Academie's symbols


Minerva


"Minerva"

Minerva is the protector of the Institute of France and its five Academies. Identified with the Greek Athena, this warrior-goddess is sometimes represented upright, wearing a helmet and breast-plate and holding a sword. Sprung fully armed from the brain of Zeus (Jupiter), she personifies the keenness of the creative intelligence and watches over all manifestations of the human spirit.
What better symbol, then, than the goddess of Wisdom, Science and Art for the National Institute of Arts and Sciences on its founding in 1795. created The portrait of Minerva appearing on all Institute and Academy documents is the work of the artist Desmarest.

   

 

"The "green suit""

Academicians have their own distinguishing marks, notably the famous "green suit", designed by architect Jean-François Chalgrin at the request of First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte. The midnight blue woollen suit is trimmed with dark green silk and topped off with a cocked hat decorated with black ostrich plumes. The uniform may only be worn by Academicians and Foreign Associate Members, and not by Corresponding Members.

 

   

"The sword"

This solemn garb is rounded off by a sword. In 1687 the members of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture were invited to deposit their personal arms at the entrance to the Academy, as a token of their obedience to the banning of duels by Richelieu several decades earlier. The ornamentation of the new sword symbolises the ideals, career and philosophy of the newly-elected member. From the outset the sword was regarded not as a weapon but as a portrait of its bearer, simultaneously symbolising memory, character and hope.

Far from foreshadowing future combats, it is a mark of physical presence that commands respect for the bearer.
It is also a potent work of art whose precious materials illustrate a career, a spirit and a rise to eminence. Its blade dubs those whose peers have judged them worthy of entry to the Academy. Considered then as a sign of recognition, the sword strikes only in defence of culture, the arts, literature and science: this is Minerva seen as a goddess of peace.

   
   

 

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