Amid the celebrations marking Bastille Day on Sunday, French President Francois Hollande unveiled a new stamp that had been printed in secrecy for the past two months. Little did he know that the drawing of the pretty young girl would spark a nation-wide controversy.
Representing the features of the revolutionary icon Marianne, the cartoon-style drawing shows the beautiful face of a young women holding up her hand. According to Le Parisien, Hollande lauded the effigy as an "illustration" of the youth that he had declared a priority during his presidency.
Following the release of the image, many begged artists David Kawena and Olivier Ciappa to reveal who they had modeled the design after. Ciappa ended the mystery on Sunday in a post on Twitter:
"For everyone who asked [to know] the model for Marianne, it's a mix of different women but most of all Inna Shevchenko, founder of FEMEN," he wrote.
Pour tous ceux qui demandent le modèle de Marianne, c'est un mélange de plusieurs femmes mais surtout Inna Shevchenko, fondatrice des FEMEN.
— Olivier Ciappa (@OlivierCiappa) July 14, 2013
Ukrainian-born Shevhcenko is one of the founders of FEMEN, a feminist activist organization famous for its topless protests slamming misogyny and homophobia around the world. The activist group has its European headquarters in Paris and has staged numerous demonstrations in the country, including one targeting a march by far-right groups to celebrate Joan of Arc earlier this year. Shevchenko, notorious for destroying a wooden cross with a chainsaw to protest the arrest of the members of the Russian band Pussy Riot, applied for political asylum in France earlier this month.
The announcement sparked a storm of reactions. Former head of the French Christian Democrats Christine Boutin voiced her contempt for the design on Twitter, even retweeting a post by her party calling for a boycott of the stamp.
Opponents of the design launched a petition calling on Hollande to revoke the design.
France24 notes that Ciappa's work has drawn criticism by the political right in the past. In June, opponents of a French bill that would have granted same-sex couples the right to marry vandalized the artist's photo exhibition on marriage equality, called, "The Imaginary Couples."
Ciappa said on Monday that he found Boutin's reaction bizarre, adding that he had received other threatening and hateful messages on Twitter.
In a blogpost for HuffPost France, the designer explained: "I chose Inna Shevchenko as model, after days and days of trials and searches. She embodies the values of the [French] Republic best; liberty, equality, fraternity. Feminism is an intrinsic part of those values."
Ciappa adds he considered several other models for the stamp, including actress Marion Cotillard.
Femen leader Shevchenko, on the other hand, seemed thrilled by the news. She tweeted: "Femen is on French stamp. Now all homophobes, extremists, fascists will have to lick my ass when they want to send a letter."
FEMEN is on French stamp.Now all homophobes,extremists,fascists will have to lick my ass when they want to send a letter. @Femen_France
— inna shevchenko (@femeninna) July 15, 2013