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Paris: Rendezvous with Lady Liberty

BARTHOLDI’S “BIG DAUGHTER” (A.K.A., STATUE OF LIBERTY), NEW YORK, NEW YORK IMAGE: T. BRACK’S ARCHIVES

BARTHOLDI’S “BIG DAUGHTER” (A.K.A., STATUE OF LIBERTY), NEW YORK, NEW YORK IMAGE: T. BRACK’S ARCHIVES

By Theadora Brack

In celebration of the recent July 14th Bastille Day in France, let’s doff our “bachi” to my favorite Franco-American collaboration, the gigantesque statue of Lady Liberty on Bedloe’s Island in the New York Harbor.

This year, I’ve got new images, along with one taken by our own special photographer friend, Maurice Sapiro. While playing the trumpet with the 279th Army Band in Europe in 1956, Maurice documented the streets of France. So without further adieu, let’s play forward with some homage, shall we?

After all these years

Our own 151-foot tall beauty is still looking fierce in her spiky nimbus (that’s right, mythically speaking, it’s not a crown!) and matching floor length chiton in all its copper green tonalities. An exquisite nod to the style of classical Greece, I must say. All the rage in Empire France, too.

As the late, great designer, Christian Dior once put it, “Darling, your toile with the cinched waist is perfect!”

DIOR’S “NEW LOOK” AND LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ  BY COMBAT PHOTOGRAPHER ROBERT CAPA, PARIS, 1948

Dream Team

Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was the artist, while Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre Gustave Eiffel were the structural engineers of the Union Franco-Americaine Statue of Liberty project. (Viollet-le-Duc also helped restore Notre Dame. Contributing his own interpretive gothic revival twist, he upgraded it with a fantastical spire and a bevy of new gargoyles to keep the evil spirits at bay, and then gave it a good cleaning.) Yes, it is a small world.

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, GAGET AND GAUTHIER CO., PARIS, 1882 (BARTHOLDI IS ON THE RIGHT WITHOUT HAT)

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, GAGET AND GAUTHIER CO., PARIS, 1882 (BARTHOLDI IS ON THE RIGHT WITHOUT HAT)

Step right up

Monumental statuary has long been financed by public subscriptions (much like today’s Kickstarter funding schemes). The Statue of Liberty was no exception. Fully embracing crowdsourcing, Bartholdi pumped up the publicity volume with some P.T. Barnum-worthy teasers: In 1876 Lady Liberty’s arm and torch shined at the Centennial in Philadelphia, while her head and halo made a photogenic cameo at Paris’s Exposition Universelle of 1878.

With the help of the Paris opera’s theatrical director, Jean-Baptiste Lavastre, Bartholdi also fashioned a portable canvas banner and cranked out miniature replica souvenirs—all boasting Lady Liberty’s image, well before the statue was built. You can never go wrong with swag, I’ve always said. Apparently Bartholdi felt the same way, because in 1876 he applied for and won a design patent for the Statue of Liberty, which further helped him promote, fund, and move the project forward.

Statue of Liberty, Parade, Hawaii, September 1945 (Image: T. Brack's archives)

Statue of Liberty, Parade, Hawaii, September 1945 (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

A star is born

From the get-go, Bartholdi was involved in every aspect and phase of the project. Cutting a dashing figure with his short beard and pencil-thin mustache, Bartholdi not only ignited but also maintained a global buzz. And how! There was even a “Bartholdi Fan Club.” But he also had timing on his side. During 1800s, colossal monuments were in vogue as a popular way of sharing collective ideas and values (similar to social media walls).

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, ÎLE DES CYGNES, PARIS SEPTEMBER 1, 1944 (T. BRACK’S ARCHIVES)

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, PARIS SEPTEMBER 1, 1944 (T. BRACK’S ARCHIVES)

Fast forward

The French paid for the construction of the statue, while the U.S. footed the bill for her pedestal (with a big push from Joseph Pulitzer—all donors got their name listed in his World newspaper, no matter how small their gifts).

Pulitzer also pumped up the volume when he wrote: “We must raise the money! The World is the people’s paper, and now it appeals to the people to come forward and raise the money. Let us not wait for the millionaires to give us this money. It is not a gift from the millionaires of France to the millionaires of America, but a gift of the whole people of France to the whole people of America!”

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, ÎLE DES CYGNES, PARIS (Image: T. Brack's archives)

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, PARIS, 1963 (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

Keeping it simple

Here’s how Bartholdi described his vision: “I have a horror of all frippery in detail in sculpture. The forms and effects of that art should be broad, massive and simple!”

I think Christian Dior would have added his stamp of approval to the Statue of Liberty’s classical attire. After all, he once said, “Elegance must be the right combination of distinction, naturalness, care and simplicity.”

DIOR’S “NEW LOOK” AND LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, ÎLE DES CYGNES, BY COMBAT PHOTOGRAPHER ROBERT CAPA, PARIS, 1948

DIOR’S “NEW LOOK” AND LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ BY COMBAT PHOTOGRAPHER ROBERT CAPA, PARIS, 1948

Flawless

Imagine if Dior had designed a stunning little “New Look” number for our Top Model Liberty friend. Perhaps a dress with a plastron curving down below the waist, side drapery, and a faux waterproof stole? The mind squeals.

Weighing in at an impressive 450,000 pounds, her height (from heel to head) is 111 feet, one inch, her waist is 35 feet, the length of her right arm is 42 feet, the length of her hand is 16 and a half feet, her fingernails are 13 inches (no nail biter here!), her head from chin to cranium is just over 17 feet, while her nose is more than four feet long and her mouth is three feet wide. It’s a good thing big girls don’t cry.

STATUE OF LIBERTY, NEW YORK CITY, HEART-SHAPED COMPACT MIRROR, 1950S

STATUE OF LIBERTY, NEW YORK CITY, HEART-SHAPED COMPACT MIRROR, 1950S

Exciting and New

Indeed, Lady Liberty is no lightweight. During the summer of 1885, after taking a special 70-car train from Paris to Rouen, the 300 copper pieces that form her surface were packed in 214 wooden crates. It then took more than a month aboard the French frigate Isère to carry her from France to the New York Harbor.

“You look marvelous,” Mayor William Russell Grace shouted, live from New York! During her 1886 inaugural parade along Broadway from the Battery to City Hall, the financiers in Wall Street were so moved that they started throwing tape out the window, igniting the Big Apple’s eternal love affair with tickertape parades. There wasn’t a dry eye along the “Canyon of Heroes.” I’m sure of it.

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, ÎLE DES CYGNES, PARIS, 1965 (Image: T. Brack's archives)

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, PARIS, 1965 (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

Trekking to Paris?

Don’t leave Paris without checking out the prototypes of Bartholdi’s La Statue de la Liberté scattered around the city. Grab a pencil! You can find them in a range of sizes near the Pont de Grenelle on the Île des Cygnes (Métro: Bir-Hakeim), in the Jardin du Luxembourg (Métro: Odéon), and at the Musée des Arts et Métiers (Métro: Arts et Métiers).

You can also find a full-size version of her famous torch at the entrance to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. Nowadays, the “Flamme de la Liberté” memorial serves double duty as the unofficial Princess Di shrine, since she was killed in the traffic tunnel just below. Pilgrims still leave poems, flowers, and love letters there.

“FLAMME DE LA LIBERTÉ” MEMORIAL THE UNOFFICIAL PRINCESS DI SHRINE, PARIS

“FLAMME DE LA LIBERTÉ” MEMORIAL THE UNOFFICIAL PRINCESS DI SHRINE, PARIS

To love is to act

Prior to the Statue of Liberty’s voyage in 1885, Victor Hugo paid a visit to Bartholdi’s Gaget, Gauthier and Co. workshop. He was moved to remark, “C’est Superbe! Yes, this beautiful work tends to what I have always loved, called: peace. Between America and France—France, which is Europe—this guarantee of peace will remain permanent. It was good that it was done!”

Or in the words of Dior: “A country, a style or an epoch are interesting only for the idea behind them.”

(Dear Maurice Sapiro, Thank you for sharing your photograph!)

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ BY MAURICE SAPIRO, PLACE DE LA LIBERTÉ, POITIERS, FRANCE, 1956

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ BY MAURICE SAPIRO, PLACE DE LA LIBERTÉ, POITIERS, FRANCE, 1956

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, ÎLE DES CYGNES, PARIS (Image: T. Brack's archives)

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, PARIS (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, ÎLE DES CYGNES, PARIS (Image: T. Brack's archives)

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, PARIS (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, ÎLE DES CYGNES, PARIS (Image: T. Brack's archives)

High Waters: LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ, PONT DE GRENELLE, PARIS, 1910 (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

“SOUVENIR DE PARIS” COMPACT MIRROR, 1940S

“SOUVENIR DE PARIS” COMPACT MIRROR, 1940S

Dorothy Mackaill, Motion Picture Classic, 1929

Dorothy Mackaill, Motion Picture Classic, 1929

 

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45 thoughts on “Paris: Rendezvous with Lady Liberty

  1. Lovely, lovely. And to have both Maurice Sapiro and Robert Capa contributing: my, my what friends you have! Maurice’s photos are excellent as ever. Still weeping over Robert Capa’s ill-fated affair with Ingrid Bergman….

    Like

    • Thank you, Mary! Yes, I’m also a big time fan of Maurice Sapiro and Robert Capa’s photography. It’s always a great pleasure to work with Maurice. He’s talented and witty, to boot. It’s always a win-grin for me.

      (Robert Capa and Ingrid Bergman. I know. You’ve pushed me to order Capa’s Slightly Out of Focus book. Have you read it?)

      Enjoy the week!
      Theadora

      Like

    • Dear Maurice,
      Once again, thank you for sharing your gorgeous photograph. It’s always great fun to work with you. It’s such a lovely shot. How long did you stay in Poitiers? (I think they’ve fiddled with the torch. I’ll do some digging.)

      Have a creative week!
      Theadora

      Like

    • Well, thank you! Throughout the year, I’m on the hunt for images of Lady Liberty. I was more than pleased to find the two slides from the 1960s. I especially love the one with the purple sky. Yes, I’m obsessed.

      So do stay tuned for more photographs and slides!
      Theadora

      Like

    • Thanks for your kind words!

      Here’s one more tip: According to my research, back in the day, Bartholdi’s mother enjoyed spending afternoons with her son’s Lady Liberty at the Pont de Grenelle. I love this story.
      Theadora

      Like

  2. Wonderful review of the Lady of the Light, and our ties to the people of France – we just toured Valley Forge last weekend and I realized once again that without the assistance of the French we might not be a nation. I have to smile at the Motion Picture Review magazine cover – Just as every Cosmo edition does today there is a cover article about how to please your man! Lady, love, is timeless …

    Like

    • Thanks for your thoughtful words! I completely agree. The Motion Picture Review magazine cover is quite sassy. Don Reed is one of my favorite magazine illustrators. He also created fetching portraits of Clara Bow and Louise Brooks for Motion Picture Review magazine. I’m on the hunt for more of his work.

      Enjoy the day!
      Theadora

      Like

    • Thank you, Waldo! As you know, I thoroughly enjoy how you mesh history and images, along with your love of the past. You are a wizard! It’s true.

      Bravo!
      Theadora

      Like

    • I’m with you! I’m mad, mad about history vintage photographs. I think it helps make the time travel easier. At least for me, it does. Reading a vintage magazine or touching an old coin is like shaking hands with the past.

      Happy travels! (And keep photographing!)
      Theadora

      Like

    • Kale! You are so darn witty! And now I’ve got a strong hankering for kale. I’m now off to market. Sometimes it is easy being green.

      Thanks for the big giggle!
      Theadora

      Like

  3. Not only an interesting post with lots of facts I didn’t know but such wonderful photos to go along. Love the classic Dior style…stunning.

    Like

    • Thanks, Karen! I know. I know. I love the hat. I love the gloves. I love dress. More love: I also love how the three women in the second Capa shot are perfectly in sync. Gorgeous shot. Great timing. Perhaps I’ll don the gloves today while typing . . .

      Enjoy the week!
      Theadora

      Like

  4. Wonderful history of this lovely lady, a special one indeed – love that Maurice’s photograph was used in your writing. Nothing speaks to classic like a Dior dress – that one was exquisite and “classic.” Best wishes my friend for a lovely week.

    Like

    • Dear Mary, I have Maurice to thank for introducing me to your artwork. As you know, I’m a big time fan. And yes, I also adore the classic belted Dior dress. I think Capa’s first shot is my favorite. I love the shadow of the dress, along with the reflection of Lady Liberty in the water.
      Gorgeous!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you my friend and I a big fan of your incredible writing, you really understand how to engage your audience. You are so right, the very first photograph of Dior dress was gorgeous and caught my eye for all the things you mention, and her classic stance and lovely twinge of pink tint. Hope you are well and enjoying your summer

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Swell post, T! Nice to be reminded of the long bonds of friendship between the land of Marianne and Lady Liber-T (sorry).

    Like

    • Thank you, Marino! Your words always make me smile. Ah, I need to create a special post about Marianne. It’s high time. Thanks for the brainstorming.
      Stay tuned!
      Theadora

      Like

    • I agree, Richard! Maurice’s shot is ace. I think they’ve changed the torch. It now resembles a wine bottle in gold. I prefer the old torch. Sigh. Times are always a changing. And yes. Victor was right. It was great that it was done. C’est Superbe!
      Theadora

      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

    • Merci, Mélanie! I’m off now to check out your “Happy Independence Day” post. Thank you for sharing! (I also love the photograph of the Statue of Liberty in the 1945 victory parade. It’s quite moving.)
      Cheers,
      Theadora

      Like

    • What fabulous shots, Captain Nemo. You look so happy. Did you buy a souvenir? Any other flashbacks from the big day in the Big Apple?

      Thank you for sharing!!
      Theadora

      Like

      • Guess I need to complete my explanation, We lived in Queens when I was little, so between summer camp trips and trips with my parents we made quite a few trips out to the Statue. The picture at the top though that’s my Dad and my brother James about eleven years later when we returned to visit.
        My most memorable trip was the one where my Dad was looking down the center of the spiral staircase and his eyeglass lens popped out! It sailed away and we never did find it. I assume it shattered somewhere on the way down as they didn’t make lenses as sturdy as they do now, and yes I did buy things at the souvenir shop though I don’t know where most wound up.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Alexander! I also love Staten Island. Years ago, I lived there, so I got to take the Ferry on a daily basis. I always sat on the “Lady Liberty” side of the boat. I never missed a chance to see her, especially at sunset!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Meg! I especially love the top shot of the tourists. Perhaps it’s time to bring back hats and brightly colored scarves. At least while traveling. So Glamorous.

      Enjoy the week!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Brilliant Theadora– so informative, loved all the details and the amazing older photos1 We visited Bartholdi’s home in Colmar a couple times– a small but stately home, beautiful paintings and furniture– and a great gallery of much of his work. thanks.

    Like

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