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(Compare the Statue of Liberty, created as Liberty Enlightening the World by French artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, with a copy in both Paris and Saint-Étienne.) In September 1792, the National Convention decided by decree that the new seal of the state would represent a standing woman holding a spear with a Phrygian cap held aloft on top of it.Historian Maurice Agulhon, who in several well-known works set out on a detailed investigation to discover the origins of Marianne, suggests that it is the traditions and mentality of the French that led to the use of a woman to represent the Republic.These two figures finally merged into one: a female figure, shown either sitting or standing, and accompanied by various attributes, including the tricolor cockade and the Phrygian cap.This woman typically symbolised Liberty, Reason, the Nation, the Homeland, the civic virtues of the Republic.Although the initial figure of Marianne from 1792 stood in a relatively conservative pose, the revolutionaries were quick to abandon that figure when it no longer suited them.By 1793, the conservative figure of Marianne had been replaced by a more violent image; that of a woman, bare-breasted and fierce of visage, often leading men into battle.As part of the tactics the administration employed, the more radical Marianne was intended to rouse the French people to action.Even this change, however, was seen to be insufficiently radical by the republicans.
In the Official Vignette of the Executive Directory, 1798, Marianne made a return, still depicted wearing the Phrygian cap, but now surrounded by different symbols.
Less common during the Middle Ages, this practice resurfaced during the Renaissance.
During the French Revolution of 1789, many allegorical personifications of 'Liberty' and 'Reason' appeared.
Furthermore, France and the Republic themselves are, in French, feminine nouns (la France, la République), as are the French nouns for liberty (fr: Liberté) and reason (fr: Raison).
The use of this emblem was initially unofficial and very diverse.
The symbol of Marianne continued to evolve in response to the needs of the State long after the Directory was dissolved in 1799 following the coup spearheaded by Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès and Napoleon Bonaparte.