I first photographed this mesmerizing statue sometime in the mid 1990s with a film camera. I’ve even posted about it before (see Statue in the Old Town). The main difference between these two pictures and the earlier one is that in the latter the girl is holding a flower in her hand. Apparently visitors often either place flowers in the girl’s hand(s) or leave them at the base. I didn’t know at the time who had created this statue. I’ve since discovered more about its creator and his intent.
According to the Official Site of the Town of Geneva (translated from the original French):
In the heart of the old town stands a teenage girl with a thin silhouette. This bronze statue by the Swiss artist Heinz Schwarz is part of the collection of the Fonds d’art contemporain of the City of Geneva (FMAC).
The delicate young girl who stands naked on Place du Bourg-de-Four is one of the most popular Geneva statues. She was baptized Clementine by the inhabitants of the district, probably because the statue almost opposite the cafe of La Clémence.
Harmonious forms of adolescence. Adolescence is one of Heinz Schwarz’s favorite subjects. He aims to capture this transitional moment between childhood and adulthood. According to him, this is the period of age when young girls have the purest forms.
A long limbed figure somewhere between energy and weakness. The teenager, with delicate curves and natural calm, amazingly combines energy and weakness: while her body measures more than a meter eighty, it seems to threaten to collapse due to its leanness. This extreme refinement of the body, proposed in several statues of the artist, is difficult to perform technically, for it is less voluminous than statues of more classical proportions.
A statue that denounces injustice. Many have become attached to this statue, which has come to symbolize issues related to female exploitation and child maltreatment.
Artist: Heinz Schwarz (Arbon / Switzerland, 1920 – Satigny / Switzerland, 1994)
Date of creation: 1974 (mold), 1975 (cast iron)
Description: sculpture in public space, statue
Technique and materials: bronze
Dimensions: 183x40x40 cm
From the lake edge, take yourself up to Place Bourg de Four in the old town. Prepare to have your heart-strings pulled!
Schwarz’s “Clementine” is much more than an exquisite statue. She is a symbol of solidarity for women and girls – especially those forced into prostitution – all over the world: the reason why there are often floral tributes strewn at her feet. Clementine is overpoweringly sad and beautiful in her budding adolescence. She is unspeakably delicate and stands fully and unashamedly naked. She is quiet but her vulnerability screams out. You can only weep for her innocence that has been or is soon to be brutalised. And Schwarz has evoked all this in bronze! Genius!
I have to wait to take my photograph because an obese man – to the amusement of his tourist friends – drapes an arm around Clementine’s shoulder and fingers her right breast. Digital shutters click amid giggles. My disgust wells inside. Clementine doesn’t flinch. She’s seen and felt it all before.
It’s ironic that a statue, which has come to symbolize the fight against female exploitation can itself be exploited in such vile ways by the moron mentioned above.