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18.12.04

Icon Maker

Other Newspaper Articles:

Cecile Brisson, Statue of Liberty's birth on display (Associated Press, in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, December 7) (I note with pleasure that a friend of mine in Paris, Kate Brumback, contributed to this story!)

Jon Henly, Exhibition retells tortuous French tale of the Statue of Liberty (The Guardian, December 7)


La Liberté éclairant le monde
A little article (Les poses de la géante [The giantess's poses], December 9) by Marie Audran in Le Point made me aware that this year is the 100th anniversary of the death of sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904). Who? He was the creative mind behind a large statue he named La Liberté éclairant le monde, built in the late 19th century, a cast skin designed to be attached to a huge metal frame made by Gustave Eiffel. It's standing right now in the middle of New York Harbor. A new exhibit commemorates the event (my translation):
The Musée des Arts et Métiers [in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris] had the excellent idea to exhibit some fifty photographs from its little-known collection (from a total of 14,000 images). These shots, taken from 1876 to 1886, reveal the broad stages of the construction of the torch-bearing giantess. In his Parisian workshop, the elegant Bartholdi and truly minuscule workers pose next to a gigantic foot or an ear, of which the actual-size mold is shown with the photos. A model tells us about the patient work on the proportions by progressive advances in dimension until, in the photos, the massive silhouette hangs little by little over Eiffel's metal framework. When it was completed in Paris, the statue was disassembled for the trip by frigate from Rouen to New York.

These images were so fascinating that their sale helped, at the time, to finance the construction. Bartholdi, who dedicated fifteen years of his life to this work, was, we see, one of the first great self-promoters...
Thank you, France, for this most magnanimous gift and for remembering its builder. I think a museum here in the United States should approach the museum to discuss bringing the exhibit here next year. What do you say, National Museum of American History? Or why not the Statue of Liberty National Monument itself?

Bartholdi: Les bâtisseurs de la Liberté (Bartholdi: the builders of liberty) will be at the Musée des Arts et Métiers until March 6. The Web site (available in English) is beautifully designed, but I wish we could see more of the actual photographs.

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