Liberty Enlightening the World

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi1878

Musée des arts et métiers

Musée des arts et métiers
Paris, France

A project to create a monument commemorating the United States’ independence gained momentum in the early 1870s with the support of the Franco-American Union. The sculptor Auguste Bartholdi imagined an allegory of Liberty holding up a torch to enlighten the world. The technical challenge of constructing this gigantic figure was taken up by Gustave Eiffel, who designed an iron tower on which to fix the hammered copper plaques which when assembled would form the statue. To test the work’s structural viability, in 1884 Bartholdi constructed the towering figure in the courtyard of the workshops of Gaget, Gauthier & Cie in Paris. Seizing this opportunity to finance his project, the sculptor opened the statue’s construction to the public, and paying visitors flocked to admire the metal colossus rising above the city’s rooftops. The statue was then dismantled, packed in cases and shipped to New York, where it was finally inaugurated in 1886. This painted plaster 1:16 scale model, standing triumphantly on the ornately decorated plinth housing a small diorama, was donated to the Conservatoire by Bartholdi’s widow in 1907.

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  • Title: Liberty Enlightening the World
  • Creator: Auguste Bartholdi
  • Date: 1878
  • Date Created: 1878
  • Location: France
  • Physical Dimensions: 1:16 scale model
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Contributor: Author: Lionel Dufaux. English translation: David Wharry
  • Inventory number: Inv. 13768-0001
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Michèle Favareille