Le Pouce, an eye-catching imperial sculpture by Caesar!
It's one of the best-known works in the business district. Intriguing, amusing and emblematic, Le Pouce has been fascinating visitors since 1991! And it was none other than the famous artist César Baldaccini who created it. Here's the story.
Commissioned for the La Défense business district in 1990, Le Pouce is part of the developer's desire, since the late 70s, to enrich the collection of works of art present in the public space. The creations of internationally-renowned artists followed one another, contributing to La Défense's reputation for contemporary art.
Designated a "New Realist" in 1960, César is known for his work on everyday consumer objects, which he assembles, compresses and enlarges, in a spirit akin to American Pop Art. Why was César chosen by EPAD, the local public institution? To be able to present, in the selection of international works, that of a world-famous Frenchman!
A thumb... not so unique!
Out of "narcissism" and, as he put it, "the convenience offered by the immediate availability of the model", César began enlarging his thumb for an exhibition entitled "The Hand, from Rodin to Picasso". When Le Pouce was commissioned, César, who dreamed of seeing his thumb the size of the Eiffel Tower, had just completed a 6-metre enlargement for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. However, to ensure exclusivity for La Défense, he undertook not to produce any more monumental copies.
The work was created from an initial plaster cast of the artist's thumb. Originally, César had suggested using his middle finger as a reproduction medium. Larger and more visible, however, the artist preferred to use his thumb so that his approach would be taken seriously.
And that's how The Thumb was born! Like an obelisk, this monumental enlargement of the cast reaches a height of 12 meters. It's the largest of the sculptor's Thumbs since the first one, made in 1965, measured just 40 centimetres!
The gilded bronze work was then transported in two pieces by truck from the foundry in Normandy to its final location on Place Carpeaux. In all, it took over 2 days to install! Beforehand, the structure of the slab had to be reinforced to accommodate the 18 tonnes of the work.
An extraordinary invitation
In 1994, the work was completed and mounted. Time for the inauguration! The paper invitation included a cut-out area for the thumb. In this way, it was possible to preview one's own thumb where the artist's had been, against the backdrop of a photo of La Défense.
Le Pouce was then renovated in 2015, restoring it to its original splendor. Today, it still stands in stark contrast to the rigor of the surrounding architecture.