PARIS (AFP) - Oscar Wildes renovated Paris tomb is to be unveiled, complete with a new glass barrier to shield the quintessential dandys memory from a torrent of dangerous, admiring kisses.
Kiss upon lipsticked kiss in honour of Wilde, who died penniless aged 46 in a Paris hotel room in 1900, has worn down his elegant tomb at Pere Lachaise cemetery, as the grease from tourist lipstick sank deep into the stonework.
The tomb, designed by modernist sculptor Jacob Epstein and featuring a flying Assyrian-style angel, survived almost unscathed until 1985, except for the angels genitals being hacked off, according to the Irish Cultural Centre.
Then, the expense of cleaning operations to deal with increasing graffiti on the tomb led the descendants of Wilde and of his friend and executor Robert Ross to try, successfully, to get it listed as an historic monument.
The hope was that fines of thousands of euros for defacing the monument would deter fans of the author of The Importance of Being Earnest.
But in 1999 the graffiti was replaced by a much more worrying phenomenon when someone had the idea of planting a large, lipsticked kiss on the tomb, sparking a craze for Wildes many admirers to perform when in Paris.
The grease base of the lipstick penetrates the stone and long after the colouring pigments have faded, a grease 'shadow is still visible, the Irish Cultural Centre said in a statement.