Saturday 14 October 2017

Liberty in Paris

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité!

Unveiling the Statue of Liberty, 1886
photo: Wikimedia Commons
Everyone knows the motto of the French Republic, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," which has been used since the days of the French Revolution in the 18th century.

And Liberty was one of the most famous gifts in history: from the people of France to the people of the United States on the occasion of the centenary of the American Revolution.

The Statue of Liberty was sculpted and cast by Auguste Bartholdi in France and shipped to New York in 1885, and erected on a frame designed by Gustave Eiffel.

Replica on Île aux Cygnes
photo: H. Zell
(Wikimedia Commons)
For the centenary of the French Revolution, a group of US citizens living in Paris reciprocated and made a gift of a replica of the statue to the people of France. It is on an island in the Seine, the Île aux Cygnes, and is about a quarter of the size of the original.

It's not an exact replica, though: the inscription on the book in Liberty's left hand shows not only the date of the US Declaration of Independence in 1776, but also the date of the storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789.

Replica of Bartholdi's
bronze model
Luxembourg Garden
photo: Páraic Maguire
In 1900, Bartholdi donated the bronze model he had used to make the statue to the Musée du Luxembourg. It stood in the garden until 2012 when it was removed for conservation reasons and replaced by a bronze replica. The original can now be found in the Musée d'Orsay.

After the death of the sculptor, his family bequeathed the original plaster maquette to the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris. A bronze cast from this plaster can be seen in the grounds of the museum.

Many other replicas exist throughout France and, indeed, the world. Some are scale models, others are variations on the original.

Can you find Liberty?
Centaur, Carrefour Croix-Rouge
photo: Páraic Maguire
The smallest is well hidden on the centaur statue at the Croix-Rouge crossroad (officially: Place Michel-Debré). It takes a keen eye to spot it.

Flamme de la Liberté
photo: Ignis
(Wikimedia Commons)
The most misunderstood is an exact, full-scale replica of the torch flame, the Flame of Liberty, at the intersection of Avenue de New-York and Place de l'Alma. It happens to be near the spot where a former princess died tragically in 1997 and has been hijacked as a memorial to her.

The Flamme de la Liberté was in fact another gift to the people of France, organised by the International Herald Tribune on behalf of donors throughout the world, as a symbol of Franco-American friendship and in gratitude for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty, carried out by two French companies in 1986.

Vive la France! Vivent les États-Unis! Vive la Liberté!

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