|The statue from an old photograph|
The explanation? ....Voltaire's heart preserved in its base was making its presence felt......
|Voltaire in situ in the Salon d'honneur, Bibliothèque nationale|
|Ferney: his monument |
is here, but his heart
On Voltaire's death, his heart was removed and appropriated by the marquis de la Villette who placed it in a precious metal box, bearing the suitably uplifting inscription: "His heart is here but his spirit is everywhere". The marquis managed to buy the estate at Ferney from Madame Denis and briefly enshrined the heart there, its casket installed on a velvet cushion before a pyramid shaped monument designed by the former architect Léopold Racle. This splendid cenotaph was surrounded by no less than forty one portraits of Voltaire's friends and guardians of his memory. In 1785, when financial necessity obliged the marquis to sell Ferney, the heart was quietly removed to his ancestral property the Château de Villette at Pointe-Sainte-Maxence (Oise).
"Chambre du Coeur de Voltaire" Engraving by F.-D. Née
from a drawing by G. Duché de Vancy
made for the marquis de Villette at Ferney in 1781.
|Ceremonial handover in 1924|
|The statue (with heart) in 1924|
If you like you can read all about the state of the now mummified heart and the elaborate conservation treatment it required. I have not been able to find out whether it has yet been restored to its former compartment in the base of the statue.
"Voltaire, un coeur à prendre!", post dated 27/12/2011. SFU-BNF blog, http://bibliothequesenlutte.wordpress.com/2011/12/27/voltaire-un-coeur-a-prendre/
Nathalie Buisson, "Le cœur de Voltaire : un secret bien gardé". in Actualités de la conservation, No.32, 2012 http://www.bnf.fr/documents/lettre_cons_32_art2.pdf