Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lady Liberty in Paris

Liberté éclairant le monde (Liberty enlightening the world) is better known as the Statue of Liberty. Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, its sculptor, was born in 1834 as Amilcar Hasenfritz in Colmar (Alsace), into a family of German Protestants. His artistic status was elevated exponentially when the citizens of France made a gift of this statue to the people of the United States to mark the centennial of the American Revolution of 1776.
However, budget snafus and various complications delayed its installation for a full ten years, until President Grover Cleveland inaugurated it in 1886. Note: As Governor of NY, Cleveland had vetoed a bill to contribute $50,000 toward the construction of the statue’s pedestal. Oh, the irony!
Bartholdi is now a permanent Parisian, and his grave can be found in the Montparnasse cemetery.
The first model of Lady Liberty, on a small scale, was built in 1870 and can be found to this day under a tree in the Jardin du Luxembourg (photo at top left).
A larger version can be found at the western tip of the Île des Cygnes (Swan Island), an artificially created finger of land in the Seine near the Eiffel Tower. The island is barely a half mile long and extraordinarily narrow. This statue, which was inaugurated at its site in 1889 (three years after its NY counterpart), was given by the French community living in the United States to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution of 1789. It initially faced east, toward the Eiffel Tower, but was rotated west in 1937 for the Exposition Universelle hosted by Paris that year. Its base displays a commemorative plate, and the booklet it holds in its left hand bears the inscription, “IV Juillet 1776 = XIV Juillet 1789,” recognizing the American Independence Day and Bastille Day, respectively.
Access to the island is by Metro: Bir-Hakeim or Passy.

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