ONTD Political

Oscar Wilde's tomb renovated to protect it from kisses

1:00 pm - 12/29/2011
Oscar Wilde's renovated Paris tomb was unveiled on Wednesday, complete with a new glass barrier to shield the monument to the quintessential dandy from a torrent of admiring kisses.

Kiss upon lipsticked kiss in honour of Wilde, who died penniless aged 46 in a Paris hotel room in 1900, has worn down the elegant tomb in Pere Lachaise cemetery, as grease from tourist lips sinks into the stonework.

A large crowd of journalists and well-wishers turned out for the ceremony, under cold but bright winter sunshine on the tree-lined alleys of the famous burial ground, where fresh flowers were piling up.

The tomb, designed by modernist sculptor Jacob Epstein with a flying Assyrian-style angel, survived almost unscathed until 1985, except for the angel's genitals being hacked off, according to the Irish Cultural Centre.

Then, the expense of cleaning operations to deal with increasing graffiti on the tomb led the descendants of Wilde and of his friend and executor Robert Ross to try, successfully, to get it listed as an historic monument.

The hope was that fines of thousands of euros for defacing the monument would deter fans of the author of "The Importance of Being Earnest."

But in 1999 the graffiti was replaced by a much more worrying phenomenon when someone had the idea of planting a large, lipsticked kiss on the tomb, sparking a craze for Wilde's many admirers visiting Paris.

"The grease base of the lipstick penetrates the stone and long after the colouring pigments have faded, a grease 'shadow' is still visible," the Irish Cultural Centre said in a statement.

The glass should shield the tomb, but one wellwisher had planted a rosy red kiss on a nearby tree.

Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland, said he would have loved all the fuss.

"It's not a good time for the world in general, with the financial crisis, but at least one country believes in culture and the people of Ireland have come up trumps," he said.

"If my grandfather had been here he would have loved the attention. The attention has always been given over the last 30 years with notes and then lipstick but now art has to triumph over what the French call 'degradation'.

"Inevitably people will try to climb over the glass, but glass is fragile and people will perceive it as such. Maybe one day we can take it down when the memory of kissing Oscar is gone," he said.

Wilde left London after serving two years in prison for homosexuality, a crime in the eyes of Victorian society, and never regained the creative impetus that had made him a hugely popular, if controversial, playwright.

When the disgraced Irishman died of meningitis in a Paris hotel, famously remarking that "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go," he was initially given a "sixth class burial" outside Paris.

His friends, in particular his literary executor Ross, managed to annul Wilde's bankruptcy, buy a plot at Pere Lachaise and have Wilde's body transferred to its more dignified and appropriately Gothic surroundings.

Ross's own remains were in 1950 placed inside the tomb, which is a big draw but nevertheless fared better than the nearby much-abused grave of Doors singer Jim Morrison, who died in Paris in 1971 at the age of 27.

A ceremony to unveil the new Wilde tomb on Wednesday, exactly 111 years after his death, was to be attended by Irish and French officials as well as Holland and British actor Rupert Everett.

Everett, who came out as gay in the 1980s, starred in the 2002 film version of "The Importance of Being Earnest".

source: The local: france
evewithanapple 29th-Dec-2011 08:28 pm (UTC)
keestone 30th-Dec-2011 02:24 am (UTC)
No, it's really a good thing. The barrier is tastefully done and really not all that intrusive, and this means the monument will be preserved.

keestone 30th-Dec-2011 02:25 am (UTC)
Woah. Sorry. Didn't realize picture was that big.
sihaya09 29th-Dec-2011 08:30 pm (UTC)
Awwww, this is sad.
lisaee 29th-Dec-2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
Oh boo. I'm off to Paris in a week or so and we're staying near Pere Lachaise. Much as I love historical preservation and all, I can't help but selfishly dislike this. I've always rather loved the kiss marks (though the thought of actually touching that tombstone with my lips rather disgusts me).
rex_dart 30th-Dec-2011 12:33 am (UTC)
In this case I say historical preservation be damned. I've changed my views on appropriate levels of preservation a lot in the past couple years, and his tomb is a memorial (and a memorial in fine condition), not a painting to be hung on a wall. It had more value and meaning as a living, changing thing than it does behind a wall of glass, and I don't think there's anything selfish about that.
keestone 30th-Dec-2011 02:32 am (UTC)
It's seen enough damage, and there's no truly good reason to treat someone's grave like the Blarney Stone. If someone really wants to leave a lipstick kiss, they can still kiss the glass. If they're so concerned about leaving a lasting imprint, that's about them not their love for Wilde.

I was concerned about the renovation till I saw the unveiling ceremony on the news. It really doesn't look like it's trying to block people off from Oscar.
rex_dart 30th-Dec-2011 02:45 am (UTC)
You realize that the lipstick doesn't last, right? If it lasted, the tomb would've been completely covered a long time ago. If people were concerned about leaving something that lasted and didn't care about the preservation, they'd be spray painting it instead of using makeup that's meant to wash off. If they're that concerned about it, as a work of art, being eaten away, they should get it out of the weather and put it in a museum and replace it with something more disposable, because idk if they've seen anything else in Pere Lachaise, but it's the older tombs are not exactly in mint condition and hardly anyone touches them. That's what happens to stone things that are left outside, whether people kiss them or not.

Comparing it to the Blarney Stone is rather absurd. Wilde's tomb is the tomb I've been to where it was most evident that the person buried there is still important to and loved by so many people; it's intended as a memorial, and as a memorial it was enhanced by the lipstick. As I said, not everything needs to be preserved behind glass; some things are better as living works, and this is a case of that. The lipstick has become a vital aspect of the tomb itself, whether or not it leads to faster (but still quite inevitable) weathering. As a memorial and as a work of art with a changing, living aspect, the glass is a hindrance and tbh pretty tacky.
keestone 30th-Dec-2011 03:54 am (UTC)
It lasts long enough, and not in a good way. As Merlin Holland said, "the grease sinks into the stone." Both the lipstick and the cleaning were making the stone more porous. If you're using lipstick, applying it right before kissing the rock as I saw when I visited you're concerned with leaving a mark.The tradition was only started in the late '90s, and people were perfectly capable of expressing their love for Wilde before then, so the tradition can adapt quickly again. If people still want to kiss the glass, no problem there. Or, people can find many other ways to express their affection. If more people leave flowers or notes, I'd love it. There's already a florist just outside the gate, so it won't take that much more forethought than applying lippy.

Unlike a lot of the tombs in Pere Lachaise, people are trying to maintain it in situ partially as a work of art, but mostly as a memorial for the person buried under it. (The suggestion of moving it is actually a bit offensive.) Active maintenance costs, which why so many of the graves are in disrepair. Believe me, I'm far from the first person to make the Blarney Stone comparison. The tourists smearing lipstick on rock connection is not too difficult to draw, and some tourists to Ireland have expressed the sentiment that it was a very meaningful experience for them, so I'm not going to deny them their emotions there (even if there's no way in hell I'd touch my lips to that rock personally).

What I think is beautiful is that the governments and people of two countries came together to fund the protection of a monument to a man who died in poverty and disgrace, and he has been recognized as the international treasure of a genius that he was.
suedeheadspike 29th-Dec-2011 08:44 pm (UTC)
I'm terribly disappointed. The one public kissing thing I'd be likely to engage in myself (though I'd be grossed out, I'd still love to do it in this one instance) is now verboten. I'm all for the protection of art, mind... but in this one instance it almost seems more appropriate (and to be keeping in the spirit of the artist we lost) to allow this kind of affectionate degradation.
jettakd 29th-Dec-2011 08:51 pm (UTC)
They're gonna have to save up a Windex fund, cause I can't see this tradition going away nor do I think it should. It's something beautiful.
iolarah 29th-Dec-2011 08:53 pm (UTC)
MTE. Let's all go kiss the glass instead! ^_^
poetic_pixie_13 29th-Dec-2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
Intensely dislike this. I've always wanted to go to Oscar's grave and plant a kiss. I still will, glass be damned.
its_anya 29th-Dec-2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
What's the point of destroying a tradition to save a lump of stone?
sophiedegrouchy 29th-Dec-2011 09:19 pm (UTC)
I'm not as saddened about losing the ability to kiss the monument as much as I am at the thought that the markings have all been removed. In pen, lipstick, whiteout, whatever, people would leave the sweetest little notes for him, and it's awful to think those are all gone.

"You make me see the beauty in love, life, and tradgedy (sic). Always in my heart."

"Je t'aime Oscar"

"For the love that dare not speak its name"

And my favorite, right above the sign forbidding the graffiti:
"Here lies the best man who ever lived."

Here's to hoping a new tradition will arise. Post-its on the glass?
silver_sandals 29th-Dec-2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
Now I'm really sad I chickened out when I was there :( Like the above poster, I'm most sad about the loss of the little notes written in lipstick.
frillywitch 29th-Dec-2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
Wouldn't have that been so beautiful, though, if his tomb had been worn down and decayed by kisses?
quizzicalsphinx 29th-Dec-2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
Just as I was getting over the romantic image of a kiss imprinted in stone, you give this to me.
seagullsong 31st-Dec-2011 04:27 am (UTC)
It's sort of an awesome problem to have, for a dead person.

"Oh no, so many people want to kiss me that i's wearing down my tomb!"
velvetunicorn 29th-Dec-2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
The kissing skieves me out. I don't know why but it's really rather romantic. ♥
sandvich 29th-Dec-2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, no. :( I really wanted to visit and kiss it myself.
ravenalegria13 29th-Dec-2011 10:39 pm (UTC)
This is sad. Thankful that I got to do it in May when the glass wasn't there.
xbluedawn 29th-Dec-2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
Aww, I rather liked this tradition.
livetuned 29th-Dec-2011 11:48 pm (UTC)
Doubt this will stop people from kissing the glass though.
deleriumd 29th-Dec-2011 11:55 pm (UTC)
I have MAC's Russian Red's that I will wear when I go to that tomb. And I will find a clean spot on that glass and pucker up.
rex_dart 30th-Dec-2011 12:28 am (UTC)
Oh my god I'm so glad I got to write a message on his tomb before they did this. One of the most emotional days of my life tbh. What people do there isn't graffiti; it's love.

This is destroying something really beautiful.
sobota 30th-Dec-2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
i kissed this last year, and i never told anyone about it because it was so sad and private (there was nobody around and i was alone, shockingly). it was such a beautiful moment for me and i'm glad i had the chance to do it then.
pavonine 30th-Dec-2011 04:14 pm (UTC)
Suddenly I feel ridiculously lucky to have gotten to kiss his grave before this. :-\ Pere Lachaise is absolutely beautiful; if you're going to Paris I highly recommend a visit.

I liked it like this... :-(
tiger0range 30th-Dec-2011 11:05 pm (UTC)

(granted, I'm not a fan... but then I don't see myself doing this to any author's tombstone no matter how much I like them)
bethan_b_bad 30th-Dec-2011 11:07 pm (UTC)
I got to kiss his grave, too. So saddened by this, I really am. D:

Edited at 2011-12-30 11:07 pm (UTC)
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