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New idol is busting out all over France

Brigitte Bardot, au revoir. In 1969, a sculptor named Aslan created a bust of the actress as ``Marianne,'' the symbol of the French Republic. Mayors across the country rushed to install copies in their offices.

But now Bardot has been spurned for a more modern image of Marianne -- Catherine Deneuve.

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The origin of Marianne dates from the French Revolution. Some say that opponents used the name -- common then in the French working class -- to dismiss the revolutionary masses.

Whatever her true beginnings, Marianne became the symbol of the new Republic. And through three monarchical restorations, a German occupation, and five Republics, Marianne has retained her pull on the French heart.

Throughout the years, there have been numerous renderings of the image -- the most famous being the that of the artist Delacroix. At least a hundred different busts of Marianne exist, according to Pierre Bonte, a radio talk-show host who started the idea of rejuvenating Marianne.

After deciding that a new rendering was needed, Mr. Bonte asked his listeners to nominate their favorite model, then had his radio station organize a public opinion poll. Deneuve won hands down.

The Ministry of Culture then offered 24 sculptors the chance to create Deneuve-as-Marianne busts from photos. The various creations went on display last month at the Paris m'etro station under the Bastille. A work by sculptor Mireille Polska was chosen as the winner. Copies for their offices will cost France's mayors about $300 apiece.

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