Lover in Robert Doisneau’s famous Parisian kiss photo dies aged 93

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Françoise Delbart (born Bornet), one half of the kissing couple in Robert Doisneau’s iconic photograph, “Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville”, has died.

When you think about kissing, what do you see?

Rodin’s nude marble lovers with “The Kiss”?

Magritte’s shrouded smoochers with “The Lovers”?

Maybe Victor Jorgensen’s iconic “Kissing the War Goodbye” photograph, or Banksy’s “Kissing Coppers”?

There’s of course Rhett and Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, Lady and the Tramp, that time Vada kisses Thomas in My Girl, and Elio’s first kiss with Oliver in Call Me By Your Name.

All fine choices, but chances are you’ll have had a flash of Robert Doisneau’s couple kissing outside a café, in front of the Parisian City Hall.

Taken by the French photographer (1912 – 1994) in 1950, as part of a series commissioned by American magazine Life on the theme of lovers in Paris, “Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville” (“The Kiss by the City Hall”) is one for the ages.

The black and white photograph sees a couple, Françoise Delbart (born Bornet) and her boyfriend Jacques Carteau, sharing a tender kiss in the midst of the busy Parisian bustle.

It has now been reported that Françoise Delbart died on Christmas Day at the age of 93.

She was 20 at the time when she posed for this languorous embrace, and the story goes that the photographer fell under the young couple’s spell on a café terrace. He asked them to pose for him, immortalising their romance.

Last year, Delbart told La Dépêche d’Évreux: “I was with my boyfriend. We couldn’t stop kissing. We were kissing all over the place, all the time. Robert Doisneau was in the bar, he asked us to pose for him.”

That’s right, it was staged – something which caused minor controversy when the artifice was revealed, as many assumed that the snap was spontaneous.

Françoise Bornet was then taking drama classes at the prestigious Cours Simon, dreaming of becoming an actress. The couple let themselves be photographed for a fee (500 francs) and Doisneau provided Bornet with the original print once the session was over.

The photograph was forgotten for almost thirty years, but became famous when 410,000 copies of a poster-sized print were sold in 1986. Doisneau explained this success by saying “It’s the symbol of a happy moment.”

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