Let’s talk about a true symbol of universal brotherhood which tattoo lovers increasingly choose to immortalise on their skin. Inaugurated finally in 1886…
A very creative dinner
It all began in 1865, in France, during a dinner between two close friends. They were the sculptor Fredric Auguste Bartholdi and Edouard De Laboulaye, a Parisian professor of law who would later become a senator of the French Republic. «I believe we should present our American friends with a gift – said De Laboulaye – a marvellous imposing structure to symbolise the hard-won independence of our respective nations: the declaration of independence in 1776 for the Americans and the taking of the Bastille in 1789 for the French». « Yes – answered Bartholdi – let’s create something like that and we can call it ‘Liberty enlightens the world’…». By the time dessert was served, the two friends had already decided on who had to do what: the French government could pay for the monument itself while the United States could build the base and choose the location (Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor).
The Eiffel participation
The statue was sculpted in the neoclassical style, inspired by two works in particular: ‘Liberty of Poetry’ (a detail of a funerary monument sculpted by Pio Fedi which can be seen in Santa Croce in Florence) and ‘The New Law’, a marble figure created in 1810 by Camillo Pacetti which is to be found on the main terrace of the Duomo of Milan. The project proved far from simple from a technical viewpoint and was completed by Gustave Eiffel (father of the famous Parisian tower) who designed the ‘backbone’ of the statue building a futuristic steel framework to which 300 moulded sheets of copper were attached.
Travel by the sea
Another problem arose when the French sent the statue across the Atlantic (in 1883 boxes) since the numerous journeys of the little merchant ship meant they overshot the centenary (1876) of the famous Philadelphia declaration. The cornerstone was laid on 5th August 1884, the last one in December 1885 and the entire monument was inaugurated with great pomp and ceremony on 28th October 1886. The overall cost of the Statue of Liberty came to more than 500 thousand dollars (about ten million in current terms) and the people of New York suddenly found themselves unable to raise the funds for construction of the pedestal which was to be made from a valuable greyish pink stone quarried in Connecticut.
Crowdfunding made in NYC
In those stormy months, rival cities Boston and Philadelphia offered to pay the remainder if Bartholdi’s creation was moved to their city, the very notion of which finally provoked a reaction from the inhabitants of New York. In order to prevent such a felony, newspapers in the Big Apple launched a sort of crowdfunding ahead of its time, even involving the poet Emma Lazarus in the fundraising initiative. The words of her poem (engraved on the pedestal of the statue in 1924, the same year that it became a national American monument) struck a chord, even though they had less to do with the concept of liberty and more with the problem of the immigrants held in quarantine in the miserable shacks in New York Harbour. The statue was completed on 18th February 1879 with the registration of patent number 11,023 in the name of Auguste Bartholdi. And so it has remained ever since.