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Friday, October 8, 1999 Published at 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK

World: Europe

Model choice for France

Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix: A view of Marianne in 1830

France has chosen a new Marianne - the mythical female figure that symbolises the republic.

The new figure belongs to model and actress Laetitia Casta, who starred in a recent film version of the comic book Asterix the Gaul.

[ image: Casta: More fashion icon than republican figurehead]
Casta: More fashion icon than republican figurehead
Ms Casta shot to fame in a series of advertisements for GUESS? the French clothing manufacturer.

The 21-year-old will now be the millennium model for the bust of Marianne to feature in more than 36,000 town halls across France.

This year, for the first time, the model was chosen by a vote among the country's mayors.

Ms Casta collected 36% of the votes cast; TV presenter Estelle Hallyday, daughter-in-law of singer Johnny, was second with 29%; windsurfing champion and sports presenter Nathalie Simon with 16% came third.

'Miss France'

Some mayors compared the decision-making process to a Miss France pageant, complaining that it did not reflect the diversity of French womanhood.

[ image: BB was honoured as an earlier incarnation of Marianne]
BB was honoured as an earlier incarnation of Marianne
The mayors' brief had been to choose "a working woman of her times" encapsulating "solidarity, openness and tolerance".

The bare-breasted, bonneted Marianne was the standard bearer of the revolutionary forces of 1789 and has been a symbol of the republic ever since.

Previous models have included the actresses Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot, and the singer Mireille Matthieu.

A sculptor will now be chosen to render the mayors' favourite in plaster and the new bust will be unveiled at the mayoral association's annual conference on 23 November.

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