Who was the model for the Statue of Liberty, how tall is it and what is its relationship to the Eiffel Tower?
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor shares something in common with other marvels of the world that are, were and never came to fruition.
The Statue of Liberty has towered over New York Harbor since 1886 given to the US as a gift from the French to celebrate the end of slavery in the US and inspire the restoration of Liberty at home. The idea for the “The New Colossus” was repurposed from another project its designer had envisioned of a woman lighting the way.
New York’s star attraction is an engineering marvel thanks to the work of the people who designed the internal structural elements. The once tallest building in New York still remains the tallest metal statue ever constructed nearly a century and a half later.
Who was the model for Lady Liberty?
The project that never came to fruition “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia” was the brainchild of sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. He had designed a monumental statue to tower over the entrance to the Suez Canal at Port Said. The robe-clad woman was to be a representation of Egypt modeled after the colossal figures guarding Nubian tombs. However, the immense cost of the proposal saw it go into the dustbin, at least for the Port Said.
The French historian and abolitionist Édouard de Laboulaye proposed the idea for the Statue of Liberty in 1865, the year the Confederacy surrendered and the last of the US slaves were freed. The statue was meant to be a symbol of friendship between the nations and a celebration of freedom with full abolition in the US. He also hoped that it would inspire his fellow countrymen to rise up against their new oppressor, recently self-declared Emperor of France, Napoleon III, who had put an end to the Second Republic in 1852.
The robed lady also got a makeover to resemble what many historians have said was modeled after the Roman goddess of freedom Libertas.
The most famous landmarks in New York and Paris have something in common
The original engineer to design the structure that would support the colossal statue was Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. However, he unexpectedly passed away in 1879, so the sculptor and the organization that was securing funds and carrying out the project, the Franco American Union, brought in Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel.
The name may sound familiar because of another monumental that bears his name, he designed the Eiffel Tower as the centerpiece of the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. He chose to keep many elements of Viollet-le-Duc but modernized the interior design.
The Statue of Liberty stands 151 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 225 tons supported by a 92-foot central pylon, with a side appendage to support the raised arm. The pedestal beneath slightly more than doubles the height of Lady Liberty to 305 feet 1 inch. The torch from the flame tip to the bottom of the handle alone measures 29 feet.
What does the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty read?
Whereas the original version designed for Egypt was to carry light to Asia the American statue is “Liberty Enlightening the World.” If you look closely, you’ll see that her right foot is leaving the ground as she is in mid-stride to move forward toward the horizon, “forever leading the way and lighting the path to liberty and freedom.”
“The New Colossus”, a sonnet written to help raise money for the construction of the pedestal upon which the statue stands which was cast in bronze and placed at the entrance, sums up this idea.