Miss Liberty

Upon entering the port of New York, one cannot help but experience a very strong emotion at the view of Miss Liberty. Entire generations of emigrants have seen in the Statue of Liberty the symbol of a new life and new opportunities offered by the New World. And throughout the world, it has become a true symbol of hope and renewal.

Nico Zardo

“La Liberté éclairant le monde” (Liberty Enlightening the World)- this is the original name of the Statue of Liberty. It was designed by French patriot Edouard René de Laboulaye, built in France by Alsatian sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and donated by the people of France to the people of the United States in 1884 as a sign of alliance between the two, to celebrate the recent Centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.The light of its torch can be seen up to 40 kilometers away and if, with its 93 meters of height (4-meter base) and 254 tons of weight, it is not the tallest or the heaviest sculpture in the world, it is certainly the most famous. The figure of a rather androgynous woman lifting the torch of freedom in her right hand and holding a book bearing the date of American Independence - July 4, 1776 – stems from the elaboration of images and representations of the French Revolution, together with Classical and Illuminist influences that were stirring in those years. There are those who sustain that her face resembles that of the artist’s mother, to whom Bartholdi was very close.


AUGUSTE BARTHOLDI was born in 1834 in Colmar, Alsace, into an affluent family. He was educated in Paris where he attended the ateliers of renowned artists, soon showing his aptitude for sculpture.
The sources of interest and inspiration for his work were influenced by long trips to Egypt, home of the Nile, and to Italy. On the walls of Pompeii, he admired the testimony of ancient oriental mysteries. He was then attracted by colossal monuments like Michelangelo’s Moses with horns on his head, and the monster in the rock, the Apennine Colossus, located in the park of Villa Demidoff, near Florence.
As early as 1856 he sculpted a bronze statue of General Rapp in Colmar.


SENSITIVE TO THE GLORIES OF THE ORIENT, and probably inspired by the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, during the building of the Suez Canal in 1869, Bartholdi proposed the project for a large-sized anthropomorphic lighthouse featuring an Egyptian peasant (fellah) on a pedestal holding a lantern in her right hand, entitled “Egypt enlightening the East”. The project did not convince the Viceroy of Egypt, Ismaïl Pacha, and the idea was dropped. On his way home, Bartholdi stopped in Arona, on Lake Maggiore, to admire the Sancarlone, a 24-meter brick statue with copper sheeting, created in 1698 by Giovanni Battista Crespi.


BUT THE IDEA TO CREATE A LARGE-SIZED WORK WAS FIXED IN BARTHOLDI’S MIND and the political proposal by Laboulaye to give concrete shape to the friendship that existed between France and the United States with a statue representing the concept of liberty becomes for him a challenge not to be disregarded.
Following the events of the Franco-Prussian War that saw him liaison officer between the French command and the Italian volunteers of Giuseppe Garibaldi, he resumed his project and, upon his first trip to the USA, entering the port of New York on June 8, 1871, he found in Bedloe’s Island (today Liberty Island), the ideal place for the future Statue of Liberty.
For the next five months, he traveled throughout the entire nation illustrating his great idea to influential personalities, looking for consensus and financial support for his creation.
With the establishment of the Union Franco-Américaine (Franco-American Union) in 1874, his proposal was officially accepted and the commitment to the creation of the statue was made concrete through two committees: the “Comité français”, presided first by Edouard de Laboulaye and then by Ferdinand de Lesseps, headquartered in Paris, and the “Comité americain” presided by three personalities: William Maxwel Evart, attorney and politician in New York, Colonel John Wein Forney in Philadelphia, and banker Nathan Appleton in Boston.The project for the Statue of Liberty took shape in 1875 and was presented the following year at the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, with the natural paper mache model of the “arm holding the torch” through which – by calculating the proper scale – the colossal dimensions of the entire work could be envisioned.


WORK FOR THE PRODUCTION OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY TOOK PLACE IN PARIS, at 25 Rue de Chazelles, between 1875 and 1884. The technique employed saw the construction of an outer shell comprised of about three-hundred copper plate sheets in a thickness that varied from 0.80 to 3.00 millimeters, molded onto wooden shapes, riveted and fixed on an internal metal frame.
The statue weighed 254 tons and was 73.25 meters tall including the pedestal. The height of 93 meters that is normally attributed to it refers to the average sea level at the bay in New York.
During the design phase, Bartholdi was worried about the stability of the statue, subject to solicitations due to its own weight and to exposure to the wind, and requested the collaboration of one of the major architects of the time, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879).
He suggested adding folds to the drapes of the statue’s robe to increase the resistance of the copper shell and, for greater stability, to fill the statue with sand up to the hips. For the remaining part, a metal frame was created. The death of Viollet-le-Duc marked the entry of a new architect-engineer to the scene: Gustave Eiffel. Having great experience in innovative steel constructions such as the bridge over the Douro River in Porto (Portugal) and the Gabarit Viaduct in Cantal (France), he designed a new metal self-supporting structure to which the copper sheets that give shape to the sculpture would be fixed.


IN JANUARY 1884, GENERAL TRIALS WERE HELD and all the pieces were assembled in the courtyard of the Gaget Gauthier atelier in Paris. Appropriate verifications took that entire year to make; the statue was then dismantled and each of the three-hundred pieces comprising it were numbered and packed into crates. In May 1885, 70 wagons transported the precious load to Rouen where it was then shipped on board the frigate Isère that on June 19 was triumphantly received in New York.


On March 16, 1885 Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the daily newspaper World, appealing to Americans’ national pride, launched a donation project thanks to which he succeeded in overcoming the obstacle. The pedestal was completed in April 1886.
Now the statue had to be assembled. Five days prior to inauguration, the last bolt was tightened. At the ceremony, held on October 28, 1886, a motley-colored crowd of people, US and French authorities, military personnel, mayors of several states, veterans, paraded along Fifth Avenue and then headed towards the banks of the Hudson River. At Liberty Island, after the speech by dignitaries and by US President Grover Cleveland, the statue, covered by a drape, was finally offered to public view while riflemen fired 500 shots and ships fired a round of blanks in the midst of jubilation by the crowd that, despite the smoke, was able to admire the new symbol of Liberty.



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