13 December 2012

Lipstick on Oscar Wilde's tomb

As reported by The Guardian last year:
"A kiss may ruin a human life," Oscar Wilde once wrote. It can also ruin the stonework of a tomb, judging by the extraordinary graffiti – kisses in lipstick left by admirers – that for years have been defacing and even eroding the massive memorial to the Irish dramatist and wit in Paris's Père Lachaise cemetery...

For years visitors would confine themselves to leaving gently admiring billets doux... All that changed in the late 1990s, when somebody decided to leave a lipstick kiss on the tomb. Since then lipstick kisses and hearts have been joined by a rash of red graffiti containing expressions of love...

"From a technical point of view, the tomb is close to being irreparably damaged. Each cleaning has rendered the stone more porous necessitating a yet more drastic cleaning." With the Paris authorities offering a fraction of the cost of preserving the memorial, the Irish have come to the rescue, paying for it through the office of public works in Dublin, which is responsible for a number of Irish monuments and buildings overseas. They have paid for a radical cleaning and "de-greasing" of the tomb, as well as a glass barrier which will surround it to prevent the kissers from causing further damage...
I couldn't find any photos of the modified tomb.

Update:  A hat tip to reader xcentric, who found a photo of the glass-enclosed tomb:

Photo credit - Akseli Niemelä

And a photo found by joobie shows the extensive lipstick now present on the glass.

And lastly, a more detailed photo from reader Nolandda:

(Click for bigger; several more from different angles linked in the comments)


  1. Here's the glass enclosure: http://www.blogforphotos.com/hdr-in-paris-tomb-of-oscar-wilde/

    1. I've just added the photo, with credit. Thanx, xcentric.

  2. This reminds me of a (possibly apocryphal) story about a high school where the girls daily left lip prints on the bathroom mirrors. The principal gathered the most popular girls in the school in the bathroom, told them that it was unfair of them to make the janitorial staff do extra work, and asked them to stop. Then she turned to the janitor who dipped his squeegee into the toilet and removed the lipstick.

    The problem did not recur.

  3. https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/560442_228052053962012_307227788_n.jpg

    1. Thanks, joobie. I've added that link to the post.

  4. I wish people didn't feel the need to ruin graves in this way. Jim Morrison's as well as Marie Leveau's are also covered in grafitti

  5. My friend was there with his girlfriend, they managed to get themselves over the barrier and kiss it anyway. Much to the disgruntlement of the graveyard keeper. They made it out of there without a fine (which they said could be incurred for such an infraction). But if Oscar himself were available to comment, I'm sure he wouldn't mind the personal displays of admiration, and I'm sure he would mind the scroungy Irish Government footing the bill. Well maybe I'm biased as I see layers of love given lipstick over the years, to look like a cumulative art piece of affection rather than "graffiti". To me the glass enclosure looks sterile and creates an unneeded barrier between the masses who love him today and the stone they want to touch. There is a rather nice memorial statue of him in Merrion Square park in Dublin (across the road from one of his previous residences), rather flamboyant for a statue, not sure what it is made from, maybe marble, but it's too colourful... Viewed from the front his facial expression is rather mischievous , but viewed alone from the left or right portrays happiness and sadness, it's rather well done. I'll see if I can find a link: http://pnd1.smugmug.com/Travel/To-Falmouth-Guernsey-Cork-and/-/284543143_Wmair-M-2.jpg (google "oscar wilde merrion square" for more)

  6. Yeah there is the glass barrier nowadays. We were there in January 2012. The photo above was taken in the morning, on perhaps Monday, so there weren't many people in the cemetery. I was actually amazed of the emptiness there in the graveyard. I had heard it's one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. And then just a couple of people walking, heh.

    A little further down the path is also grave of Jim Morrison. There were more people at Jim's tomb and fences around it rather than glass wall. So you couldn't actually touch either graves. Just look at them :)

  7. The state of the monument in July 2008 (reasonably high resolution). 110°, 160°, 300°, 45°.

    I agree with @Akseli, the Père Lachaise cemetery is not crowded at all. It is a nice place for a quiet stroll if you have some spare time in Paris.

    1. Thanks, Dan for the pix. I cropped one of them for an embed to show the details.

  8. more details here


    and the Dublin statue


    I would agree with Stephens sentiments above, i dont understand why they dont just put a mock facade around it and let people continue adding their appreciation. they could auction off the work of people art every few years and reclad it.

  9. Thanks upersonaliseit.

    Video on your links tells of the stone he was made from. Jade on the jacket, collar and chuffs taken from a rare Norwegian stone called "Thulite", black granite from India. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=cDtHdMHeC8A


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