Monumental Thumb by César Baldaccini, La Défense
Amongst the blur of towering glass skyscrapers, immaculately kept shops and cafes, glossy black cars, people rushing around in suits and everything else one expects to find in a financial district, an 18-ton sculpture of a thumb is bound to stick out – literally.
Leave it to Paris to install a mammoth avant-garde sculpture in the middle of a straightlaced corporate park. Visitors passing through La Défense, Paris' largest business sector, may not be expecting to find oddball displays of art, but that's exactly what this park delivers. Standing over 40 feet tall and weighing more than 18 tons, "Le Pouce," or "The Thumb" was built in 1965 by sculptor César Baldaccini.
Often referred to as the French answer to Andy Warhol, César was well known for his emphasis on resizing and reshaping objects synonymous with modernity. Not unlike Warhol, César's relationship with technology was mutually beneficial, even as it might have seemed antagonistic. Crushing automobiles and other scrap metal or recreating objects of nature with industrial materials were common themes.
Perhaps his most famous work came in the form of 'expansions' of his own hands – his thumb and fingerprints, particularly. Using modern construction methodology, César took a mold of his thumb and created several absurdly enlarged versions of it, which can now be seen in parks and museums around the world. Undoubtedly the most famous of these is this gargantuan expansion in La Défense.
Standing in stark contrast to its polished, corporate surroundings, César's thumb is discolored and ruddy, containing all of the imperfections that natural forms do. Perhaps it was not his intention to provide a counterbalance to the glossy veil of corporate ambition projected by a purpose-built business park, but that's the beauty of art – it does whatever it wants.
La Défense history - The Triumphal Way
At the end of the first World War, plans were made to develop the axis from the Arc de Triomphe at the Etoile to La Défense, an area at the edge of the center of Paris.
Numerous plans were submitted for the Voie Triumphale or Triumphal Way as it was known, most of them with endless rows of impressive skyscrapers in mostly Modernist style. Many of the plans which were submitted in 1930 came from renowned architects like Le Corbusier and Auguste Perret. None of these plans were realized, mainly due to the Great Depression in the 1930s.
In 1931 though, the authorities organized a new competition, but the intent was to limit the height of the buildings along the Triumphal Way. Only at the end of the long avenue, at the Défense, were towers allowed. This was recommended by the authorities as towers close to the center would obstruct the view on the Etoile.
Most of the 35 (French) entries in the competition were either classical or modernist style, but again none of the plans were actually realized due to lack of funding. The main focus now moved from the Triumphal way to the Défense area, or La Défense. The name défense originates from the monument 'La Défense de Paris', which was erected at this site in 1883 to commemorate the war of 1870.
A Forest of Towers
In 1951, the Défense site was chosen as an office center. In 1958, development of the area was started by a special agency, the Etablissement Public d'Aménagement de la Défense.
The first plan had 2 rows of skyscrapers of equal height. In 1964, a plan was approved to have 20 office towers of 25 stories each. Little of the development on the Défence was actually built according to this plan, as most companies started to press for taller office towers.
The result is a mix of mostly cheap towers of different heights. The tallest of them, the GAN tower, measured 179 meters (589 ft). The height of several towers, and in particular the GAN tower caused a public outcry as the 'forest of towers' disturbs the view on the Arc de Triomphe as seen from the Etoile. Partly in response to this criticism a new monument was built at the entrance of the Défense as a counterweight for the Arc de Triomphe: The Tête Défense , also known as the Grande Arche de la Défense. (Source: aviewoncities & wikipedia)
Critiques | Translate
williewhistler (13111) 2012-08-07 3:07
I enjoy your interpretation of the scene with the sculpture of the thumb appearing to dwarf the skyscraper beyond.
The people help to give a fine sense of scale and interest.
Best regards Les.
snunney (80577) 2012-08-07 3:40
What a strange sight and so well presented by you. The well chosen point of view makes for a good juxtaposition between 'thumb' and surrounding skyscrapers. The people sat introduce a sense of vitality as well as providing scale. Excellent colours and sharpness. Thanks for sharing this unusual scene.
rbellemare (2109) 2012-08-07 4:00
Thumb up on this one. I'm not sure I like this kind of art but your picture is perfect and represent it perfectly. Great composition and nice sky.
timecapturer (46443) 2012-08-07 4:17
been to Paris a few times and missed this, which astounds me considering its size. Love the way you have included the human element to give us a sense of the size and scale of this amazing sculpture. Executed perfectly and a really powerful presentation.
Best wishes - Brian.
Sergiom (56491) 2012-08-07 4:45
J'aime beaucoup ce cadrage vertical qui donne toute son ampleur au pouce dressé dans le ciel de la défense.Les gens autour donnent une belle relation dimensionnelle.
Highmountains (2255) 2012-08-07 5:49
Its exceptional composition as usual. The sharp dark image of the Thumb is a contrast to the 'blurr' of sky-blue facade of the skyscrapers behind. The posture of the tow ladies - was that on purpose ? I found it quite original and humourous. The POV is good and is significant to the appeal of the photograph.
dkmurphys (47628) 2012-08-07 6:38
Original work of art. I like your presentation and the quality of the image. Well seen.
sabermonajati (9019) 2012-08-07 7:08
this statue is very interesting and lady are good scale for it.
Oceania (4732) 2012-08-07 7:31
I never know there is a such sculpture in Paris until now. It looks funny.
jemaflor (82098) 2012-08-07 9:49
Well taken with people to give scale at your view, good light and brightness with this nice golden tone for the sculpture.
jlbrthnn (79791) 2012-08-07 10:03
This gigantic thumb skyward shown an indestructible optimism. The young women give a good indication of the scale. The light, colors, sharpness and depth are excellent. Bravo.
Have a nice day
besnard (52449) 2012-08-07 10:28
Superbe cette sculpture moderne de ce pouce qui se lève vers le ciels. La présence des personnes assises nous montre l'importance de cette sculpture.
Bravo et bonne soirée.
Schnappilic (9686) 2012-08-07 10:31
I remembered very well Monumental Thumb. I like your framing with La Défense in background. Very good result!
All the best,
dipsybee (296) 2012-08-07 12:39
Interesting shot, this sculpture is certainly eye catching. I like the way you have set it in the context of the street this way, with the buildings and trees surrounding it. The addition of the two figures sitting show the scale well.
carlo62 (29355) 2012-08-07 15:35
un monumento.....monumentale. E' sorprendende come la parte inferiore assomigli alla zampa di un elefante.
Ottima la presenza delle persone ad evidenziarne le proporzioni.
siamesa (27731) 2012-08-07 15:43
Boa noite George
Impressive monuyment . Very well photographed. Excellent point of view.
npecanhuk (62474) 2012-08-07 18:50
That giant thumb is very interesting... I was there, but I didn't manage to find it (that back in the year 2000!).
Truly attractive urban picture!
Nice to have those people there... an excellent sense of scale!
TFS - congrats,
kathryn_weir (2056) 2012-08-07 19:11
perfect composition of this most unusual subject. Including the people has given it a great sense of scale and I also love the way the POV you have applied leaves the multi-storey building dwarfed by the superthumb!
jjcordier (74476) 2012-08-07 23:19
Très bon cadrage de ce pouce de César. J'aime le parallèle avec l'immeuble et la présence des deux personnages épuisés par leur balade parisienne. Très bonne photo!
emka (75011) 2012-08-07 23:24
Hi Georgy, Amazing monument, good that there are some people indicating high huge this thumb it. I do no remember seeing photo of it. Well done.
Bluejeans (64247) 2012-08-08 5:33
Ola George ,
Fantástico este enorme monumento deste dedo tem uns detalhes e um realismo magnifico , muito interessante o detalhe da unha , boa luz , bom uso da foto na vertical ,parabéns!!
Um abraço Gonçalo
Cricri (102973) 2012-08-08 10:09
Curieuse sculpture de ce pouce, immense a en voir les personnes et les bâtiments, netteté et lumière excellente
abmdsudi (41152) 2012-08-08 14:35
Giant thumb up my friend! such a catchy monument indeed, an inspiring street shot well set-off by the vertical with good sense of realism fitting the frame tightly.
Excellent coloring, crispness and great background detail, Well taken shot. Congrats
Graal (95974) 2012-08-09 0:08
Jó napot George,
unusual sculpture. Amazing big thumb between the modern houses. Good vertical format and quality. An interesting place in Paris.
Have a nice day.
lakshmip1949 (19110) 2012-08-11 19:24
A humungous sculpture of this thumb in brown contrasting well against the light colors of the background.The image is sharp and well captured with the people sitting giving the scale.
annjackman (18453) 2012-08-11 22:17
This is an unusual sculpture but has made a very fine subject for a photograph. I like the way that it dominates the frame with the two people sitting at its base. Very well composed and taken - TFS.
Kind Regards, Ann
amaryllis (33752) 2012-08-11 23:37
un superbe cadrage avec cette statue en pouce, que je n'ai jamais été voir, c'est gigantesque par rapport aux personnes assises à côté; un bon format vertical également bien choisi avec les tours de la Défense en arriere plan,( une parmi les autres)
fabbs99 (16147) 2012-08-12 21:19
Great monument and perfect photography.Sharp and vivid image. Keep Sharing
macjake (53952) 2012-08-19 8:56
now this is strange!
what a weird and curious subject, but its the subject itself that makes this one stand out so smartly.
Really enjoy viewing it.
having the people sitting around adds life and size scale.
cool looking scene.
smash2707 (3320) 2012-11-15 12:26
I struggled to get a decent shot of the thumb a couple of weeks ago, so I really appreciate this nice composition with the tourists and the two modern buildings behind. Amazing light. Regards
- Copyright: George Rumpler (Budapestman) (82620)
- Genre: Places
- Medium: Color
- Date Taken: 2008-08-23
- Categories: Daily Life, Architecture, Artwork
- Camera: Pentax K10D
- Exposure: f/6.7, 1/180 seconds
- More Photo Info: view
- Photo Version: Original Version
- Theme(s): La Défense district in Paris [view contributor(s)]
- Date Submitted: 2012-08-07 2:38