August 2, 2010

Happy Birthday, Frederick Bartholdi

The sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty was born on this day in 1834 in France. The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from the people of France.

The real name of the statue is Liberty Enlightening the World. It has been rumored that the face of Lady Liberty is modeled on Bartholdi’s mother, and the body is modeled on his wife.

The organization that raised the money needed for the monument (approximately 300,000 U.S. dollars for the pedestal and 1,000,000 francs for the statue) formed in 1874, and starting in 1879 Bartholdi was allowed to sell small copies of the proposed statue to raise more money to build the monument. On July 4, 1884, the 151-foot tall statue was formally delivered to the U.S. Ambassador in Paris—then the 225-ton statue was dissembled and packed into 214 wooden crates to make the trip by ship to the U.S.!

Bartholdi created many other statues, including some displayed in France, Switzerland, and the U.S.

How big is it?

Seeing the Statue of Liberty in person, I thought it looked smaller than I'd expected. It's practically all by itself on an island in New York City's harbor, and my size-comparison faculty had been strained by being in Manhattan, where SO MANY buildings are super tall. I think a more important factor in my expectations is that the statue is very, very important in the American psyche, so I expected it to be even larger than it is.

Still, don't get me wrong: Lady Liberty is a large gal! From heel to head, she is more than 111 feet tall, and her arm alone is 42 feet long—which is about 7 of my husbands stacked up! Her nose isn't even a foot shorter than I am (it's four feet six inches long)!

Because Liberty Enlightening the World is so large, it is considered a colossal sculpture. The word colossal, which means “gigantic,” comes from the Latin colossus, which literally means “large statue.” A long time ago, a huge statue called the Colossus of Rhodes was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World because it was one of the largest human-created structures of its time. It was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 B.C. Apparently the Statue of Liberty deliberately mimics the design and size of this ancient statue, and the oft-quoted poem written about Lady Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...”) is titled “The New Colossus.”

Learn more about the Statue of Liberty, here or (for a more extensive treatment) here.

Build a 3-D paper model of

the monument.

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